It takes a village to save a child. In June 2020, a southeast Michigan neighborhood rallied around AJ Kashenider, who was born with kidney failure and needed a kidney transplant. Many of the family’s neighbors applied to be tested to see if they were a donor match. Neighbor Kyle Munro was a match and, in 2021, he donated his kidney to 17 month old AJ, who had been on dialysis from birth (see photo at right). The healthy toddler, family, neighbors and friends completed their first Michigan Kidney Walk at the Detroit Zoo on Sunday, May 15. Many of AJ’s Kidney Krew walkers were people who had been tested to see if they were a potential match for AJ. The team raised $5606.73 for the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan (NKFM).
When Alex and Laura Kashenider of Wixom welcomed AJ to their family, his kidneys and lungs were struggling to function. At one week old, AJ was put on a special machine to rest his lungs. He fought hard and was able to leave the hospital at 3 months old, breathing on his own, but without functioning kidneys. Instead, his parents learned to perform home dialysis on their son for 12 hours a day.
There were other tough issues. AJ had trouble swallowing, was nauseated from the dialysis and needed to have a feeding tube. Before he had his transplant, AJ had been scooting along the floor. Now he is walking and running like a typical 2 year old.
This is also the first year that AJ was allowed to go in the water, which he loves. Last summer, he could not get his dialysis catheter wet.
“We heard about the birth and the problems AJ was having,” explains Kyle. “The parents were never home—they were always at the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Then we knew they were doing home dialysis. We watched their daughter Clara, who is the same age and friends with our daughter Cora. Then Laura put it in a FB post. I saw it and put in an application that night. They called the next day. It was a long process but I am so glad I did it.”
Caitlyn, who did her own research on living donations, was very supportive of her husband. Kyle’s parents and siblings also supported his decision. When Kyle told AJ’s mom Laura that he had been chosen as the best match, Laura cried tears of happiness and relief. “Kyle is an extremely generous friend and neighbor,” states AJ’s mom Laura.
Not only did Kyle selflessly donate a kidney, but now he is sharing his story and wants to continue making people aware of the need for living donors.
Kyle is an engineer at Ford in Dearborn and had been working at home since the pandemic started. He said that working at home might make it easier for others to donate because they can work at home rather than missing work.
The transplant was only a blip on Kyle’s health journey. He is now back to long distance running and training for marathons. He has noticed no difference in his athletic ability with only one kidney. He belongs to several Facebook groups; one he especially enjoys is for kidney donor athletes.
One of Kyle’s reasons for donating his kidney is feeling that by taking care of his body, he was able to help someone else. “This kid is in need and I’m healthy. It really was a no-brainer. My being healthy all my life allowed me to do something like this.”
To those contemplating becoming a living donor, Kyle says, “Do it. Everyone is on your side and you feel uplifted. It brought a lot more meaning into my life. Even if I wasn’t a match for AJ, I would have chosen to be a living donor anyway. It’s just that nobody had ever asked.”