Skyler Moats – Chronic Kidney Disease

Skyler Moats

A Fighting Chance After Kidney Failure

In 2017, Skyler Moats stood on stage at the American Kidney Fund (AKF) Gala in Washington, D.C.

The 16-year-old won the 2017 AKF calendar cover-art contest. She also had her drawing, “A Fighting Chance,” featured on AKF’s 2018 calendar.

But, the fight to get to that moment was anything but easy.

Skyler, from Elkins, W. Va., was in fifth grade when her kidneys began to fail. She wasn’t on the proper medicines, and she didn’t have a kidney doctor to manage her care.

Life at home wasn’t easy either. So, Skyler and her two sisters went to live with their grandma, Linda Bozic, whom they call “Mamaw.”

“Mamaw had ovarian cancer while I was going through everything with my kidneys. But she focused on me and what I needed,” Skyler said.

Skyler Moats and Dr. Michael MoritzSoon after Skyler moved in with Mamaw, her kidneys failed completely. Doctors referred her to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Christina Nguyen, MD, Kidney Transplant Medical Director and Michael Moritz, MD, Pediatric Nephrology Clinical Director, assessed her for a transplant.

Meanwhile, Skyler began dialysis, which can help people with chronic kidney disease.

The night before her first dialysis appointment, Skyler got a call from the transplant team at UPMC Children’s Hospital. They gave Skyler and her grandma great news. They might have a kidney.

The team told them to stay by the phone because Skyler could get the call for a transplant at any minute.

Skyler and Mamaw anxiously waited for the call.

When no calls came, they wondered if they had phone service. When a test call revealed they didn’t, Mamaw raced through town until she found a strong cell signal in a parking lot.

Exhausted and anxious, they got a call at 3 a.m. from the transplant coordinator saying they’d know more in the morning.

After a restless night, Skyler and her grandma crawled into the car at 9 a.m. to go to Skyler’s dialysis appointment.

“At 9:03 a.m., we got a call,” Skyler said. “They said they had a kidney. We drove straight to UPMC Children’s, which took four hours.”

Going the Distance

On July 26, 2017, Armando Ganoza, MD, performed Skyler’s kidney transplant.

The surgery went well, but after, her creatinine levels were up and down.

Creatinine is a waste product that comes from normal wear and tear on muscles. If creatinine levels are too high, it could mean kidney issues.

Skyler was in and out of the hospital many times over the first year after her transplant.

Her anti-rejection drugs slowed down her production of blood, and she became anemic. She had two blood transfusions to help her heal, but Skyler still felt sick.

Further tests found that she had pneumonia.

Skyler fought through it all.

Though it wasn’t a fun time, she has fond memories from UPMC Children’s, like spending New Year with some of her nurses. And she had her Mamaw and sisters by her side each step of the way.

Sadly, on March 9, 2018, Skyler’s grandma went into cardiac arrest and passed away a few days later.

“My Mamaw was my biggest support system.” Skyler said. “She was there through it all. She was the greatest person I will ever know.”

Following Mamaw’s passing, Skyler and her sisters moved to Maryland to live with her great aunt and uncle.

Skyler started a new school in the middle of the year, proving her continued resilience to handle another challenge.

She grew stronger each day with the help of her care team and family. She's out of the hospital. And with the help of medicine, her red blood cell count is back to normal.

When Skyler did come back to UPMC Children’s in July 2018, it was for something very special. Skyler — along with her doctors, nurses, sisters, and great aunt — celebrated her one-year transplant anniversary!

Fighting for Others With Kidney Disease

Now, Skyler is using her transplant journey to help other kids and teens facing kidney disease.

“I want to tell people who have kidney disease that you can’t let it get you down. You can’t worry about what’s going to happen,” Skyler said. “You just have to do what you need to do to get through it. It gets hard sometimes, but you have to keep going.”

Skyler fought hard, and she won’t stop fighting.

“I have a miracle story.” Skyler said. “Everything about these past few years has been really tough, but I know my life has been a miracle.”