Volanda Watts shares a special bond with her son. She now carries one of his kidneys.
From birth, Volanda Watts has been battling with type-1 diabetes. It’s the most serious form of the disease and one that has taken the 46-year-old woman to the brink of death, but thanks to her son Ethan she has had another reprieve.
Ethan Watts, 19, has grown up watching his mother struggle with diabetes and subsequently kidney disease. He’s seen her battle with the loss of kidney function as a result of diabetes, and the difficulties of dialysis. So when she was in need of what would be a second kidney transplant, he was ready to step up to the plate for his mother.
“When she first got on dialysis, before the first transplant, seeing her on the machine was really hard on me,” says Ethan, who was a small boy then.
The memory of that experience informed his decision to donate a kidney to his mother.
The kidney transplant that Volanda Watts had roughly five years ago held up OK all these years. Yet last summer the vital organ began to fail her once again.
Watts found herself back on dialysis. Ethan says he couldn’t bear to see his mother go through that experience again, and didn’t want her to wait for a donor.
“She didn’t want me to do it,” says Ethan.
But his decision to help his mother won out and earlier this year Ethan Watts gave something back to the woman who brought him into this world.
It took six weeks for Ethan to recover. He says it was one day at a time and that these days he’s feeling great.
He can only hope that this kidney donation will do the trick. His mother, after all, has suffered enough from diabetes over her lifetime.
While Volanda Watts was born with the disease, she has said that it was her lifestyle decisions that caused problems in the long run.
By age 10, as a Weeksville Elementary School student, Watts discovered that diabetes was catching up with her. She was standing in line and passed out on the floor. She was rushed to the hospital and it was discovered that her blood-sugar level far exceeded normal levels.
Shortly after that, she began the painful, potentially life-long daily insulin injections. That was also when she began changing her diet to accommodate a disease that would send her to death’s door three times.
Watts says that over the years she had found it difficult to deal with her dilemma. She says that she did not follow her dietary guidelines and as a result, her disease took her to dangerous places.
Watts continued to eat the life-threatening sweets. Then at 14, tired of dealing with the reality of her disease, she stopped taking her insulin.
The result was a diabetic coma. Doctors stressed the need for her insulin, and the right diet, but Watts continued down the wrong path despite the warnings and urgings from doctors.
Over the years, she was fall into diabetic comas. Family members with juice or candy would typically revive her.
Watts would continue to go astray and eventually she faced death. Her temperature had risen to 106 degrees and her organs were failing her. She spent two months in the hospital recovering.
Then she went against medical advice again. She became pregnant and gave birth to her first child, Elise. Ten months later, Ethan was born.
In 2003, Watts was a medical student when things went truly awry. Kidney failure went her to the hospital. She had complete kidney failure and ultimately could not live without dialysis.
Every other day, with weekends off, she went to a dialysis center in Norfolk, Va. She eventually became a part of an organ donor program through the University of Pennsylvania and received her first kidney transplant, as well as pancreas.
Although a transplant recipient such as Watts must take daily medication to support her foreign organs, it’s a daily routine she will gladly indulge. And it’s something her family clearly supports.