Gift of love: Hilton Head Island mother donates kidney to ailing son

Island Packet | Matt McNab

Hilton Head Island residents Zach Ruhlin, left and his mother, Kelly, as she was prepped for surgery to donate one of her kidneys to her son. Zach was diagnosed with Dents disease, a condition that affects kidney function to the point a transplant is eventually required. Submitted photo

As a child, he was diagnosed with Dent's disease, a rare condition that affects kidney function and ultimately ends with kidney failure. Four months ago, with her son in desperate need of a kidney transplant, Kelly Ruhlin stepped in as his living donor, giving one of her organs to her son.

A standout golf player who fielded offers from Wofford University before his disease made it nearly impossible to play, Zach will make his return to the golf course Saturday during a fundraiser in Wexford, where the Ruhlin family lives. The neighborhood will hold a golf outing and a dinner to help raise money to cover the family's medical expenses.

His disease required frequent monitoring and medication over the years, but the expectation was that Zach's kidneys would function well enough that he wouldn't need a kidney transplant until he was 40 or 50 years old -- far enough away to hope for a cure or regenerative medicine to develop enough to easily replace his kidneys, his mother said.

But as his health started to decline toward the end of his freshman year in high school, it was clear his kidneys wouldn't hold out that long. Continue reading