Instead of swimming or riding his bike this summer, 12-year-old Blake Patterson has had to spend hours hooked up to a dialysis machine due to kidney failure.


    Instead of swimming or riding his bike this summer, 12-year-old Blake Patterson has had to spend hours hooked up to a dialysis machine due to kidney failure.
    Blake was born with prune belly syndrome, a congenital disorder of the urinary system that can cause stomach muscles to become weak and kidney problems to develop.
    Blake is currently on a waiting list for a kidney transplant, which is why his aunt, Amy Stiefel, founded A Fresh Ministry.
    “I don’t like to see any child attached to a machine,” Stiefel said. “There’s no life when you’re attached to dialysis.”
    Stiefel, a Middletown resident, started the ministry in June to raise awareness about kidney disease and raise funds for Blake and other children in Delaware who are also awaiting organs.
    Stiefel said Blake received a kidney transplant when he was 3 years old, but after undergoing emergency surgery last year due to a misdiagnosed abdominal problem, then contracting the H1N1 Flu while in the hospital, his kidneys began to fail again.
    “His kidney should have lasted well into is early 20s,” she said, “but because of everything he went through, the kidneys took a beating. It’s like a battery that’s starting to pucker out.”
    Stiefel said while awaiting a transplant, her nephew takes more than 30 pills a day, his blood pressure is constantly monitored to ensure he does not have a seizure and he is on strict diet, eliminating all phosphorus and potassium.
    “He can’t eat things like pasta, pizza or potatoes,” she said. “His whole diet had to change, so it takes a lot of time to figure out what to cook for him.”
    Steifel said the first objective of her ministry is to inform people about organ donation and how they can help children on a transplant waiting list.
    “It’s so hard to find a kidney or any other organ,” she said. “There really needs to be awareness out there. I had no idea how much our kidneys even do for us [until Blake’s illness].”
    Stiefel said funds she is able to raise through the ministry will go to help Blake, but she also plans to donate a portion to the National Kidney  Foundation of Maryland’s Patient Emergency Fund, which provides emergency financial assistance for kidney patients in Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and Virginia.
    She said once the ministry gets off the ground and continues to grow, she hopes to be able to help families of children awaiting organ transplants, because many parents, like her sister, are unable to work full time because they must care for their children.
    “If I can provide funds to other people who can’t work and possibly help pay an electric bill, that would be great,” she said. “I would rather them be with their children.”
    Stiefel said it hasn’t been easy fundraising, but she is willing to do all she can to help her nephew and possibly many others.
    “Right now it’s in the beginning stages, but I feel like the possibilities are endless,” she said.