Little Boy Saved By Kidney Transplant

One family's grief made way for a lifesaving organ transplant.

Aug. 7, 2008— -- Dominik Lawson was critically ill last year, undergoing dialysis five days a week. The 2-year-old from Taconite, Minn., was born with defective kidneys and needed a transplant, urgently.

Making matters worse, his immune system produced antibodies that rendered his body incompatible with most organ transplants; he was a match for only 3 percent of the population.

"As long as I'm sitting here, I'll search the globe to try and find him a kidney," his mother, Kelly Lawson, told ABC News in November.

At the same time, in that same Minneapolis hospital, another family was fighting to save their own little boy. Nine-year-old Evan Cousineau was being treated for adrenoleukodystrophy, a rare genetic disease. Both families, the Cousineaus and the Lawsons, had set up camp at the nearby Ronald McDonald House. They would greet each other in the hallways and elevators, but each focused on a different battle. One would end early.

Evan Cousineau died in November. His sister Mary and the rest of the family flew back home to San Clemente, Calif. Just a few weeks later, in the midst of her grief, she saw the ABC News story about the need for living kidney donors, a story that featured Dominik, that little boy she had seen back in Minneapolis.

"Honestly, I just knew that he needed a kidney and without it he might not make it," Mary Cousineau said. "And I couldn't imagine another family going through what we were going through."

That same evening, Mary e-mailed the Lawsons. "I just said, 'Hey I saw the story. I would love to get involved. I don't know what it takes to get tested, but give me some more information. I want to help out.'"

Kelly Lawson was eager to find another candidate for her son. Three hundred volunteers had already been screened, and not one was a good donor match. But she told Cousineau to wait.

"Considering all that they had been through, I didn't want her to rush into anything," Lawson said. "I wanted her to have time to heal and to grieve for her brother's loss."

And that is what Cousineau did. Three months later, however, she and her family came back to the hospital to thank the doctors and nurses who tried to save her brother's life. At the end of her visit, Cousineau went to the dialysis ward to see little Dominik.

"I was just so excited to see him," she said. "And he was laying in that bed and just looking at him and just knowing that I needed to help him. I couldn't stand for this little boy to be locked up in this hospital room."

Cousineau was ready to be tested, and she told the Lawsons that she would be the perfect match.

"She just said she felt it in her heart," Kelly Lawson said. "She was led. She felt maybe her brother Evan, talking to her heart, or the Lord talking to her heart saying, 'You need to do this. You will be a donor match.'"

A few weeks later, the Lawsons got the call: The "perfect match" had indeed been found.

In a six-hour operation, on May 21, Mary Cousineau gave Dominik Lawson the kidney that he desperately needed. A few days ago, she was back in Minneapolis to visit with Dominik and marvel at his progress.

"He's so much more active and happy and playing and so full of life," she said. "It's just such a joy to see."

With Mary's gift, the Cousineaus and the Lawsons are forever joined; one family, in its grief, reached out to save the other.

"Of course, we say thank you, and we love you," Kelly Lawson said. "But I don't think you can ever express the emotion and the gratefulness that we truly feel. There are no words. It's a blessing every minute I look at him."

Read more about what compelled Mary Cousineau to become a donor, in her own words.

"Be a Hero, Become a Donor" -- Produced by Santa Margarita High School students in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., this slideshow created in honor of Evan Cousineau seeks to educate and raise awareness of the need for donors. Watch Evan Cousineau's journey and learn more about becoming a donor.

For more information on how to become an organ donor, visit the United Network For Organ Sharing Web site.

For more Medicine on the Cutting Edge stories by John McKenzie, click here.