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The gift of life

NORFOLK, VA. – Like many other buildings in downtown Norfolk, Va., the Ronald McDonald House on Colley Ave. is decorated with ribbons and bows for the holidays.

Unlike the structures surrounding it, this building serves as the backdrop for some of the stories that are truly indicative of what the holiday spirit should be about.

While many children will be receiving bicycles, Play Stations and Barbie dolls for Christmas, a Murfreesboro girl is getting a unique gift from her mother for the second time, the precious gift of life.

On Tuesday morning, Breanna Teetor received one of her mother Karen’s kidneys in an effort to replace the kidney she received from her father Peter five years ago.

Today, both mother and daughter are doing well, and Breanna is getting ready to come home with a new lease on her young life.

&uot;They are both doing well,&uot; Peter said by telephone on Friday. &uot;We are expecting to bring Breanna home early next week.&uot;

Breanna, a fourth grader at Ahoskie Christian School, has been dependent on a dialysis machine ever since the kidney she received from her father when she was four years old began to regress earlier this year.

&uot;My kidney worked for the past five years,&uot; Peter said. &uot;The medicine that Breana was forced to take for the transplant eventually began to have an adverse affect on her body.&uot;

Breanna, who suffers from a rare kidney disease called Conjunctive Nephrotic Syndrome, was the &uot;one&uot; in a one-in-a-million chance of acquiring the disease.

The disease inhibits the production of urine in children, causing swelling and raising the body’s proteins to unsafe levels.

Breanna who until this summer had been leading as normal as a life as any other fourth grader, has been in and out of the hospital for the past six months.

Karen, an employee at Roanoke Chowan Hospital, said that it is Breanna who gives her strength.

&uot;She’s my hero,&uot; Karen said. &uot;When she says everything is okay, then everything is okay.&uot;

The Teetor family, Karen, Peter, Breanna and Breanna’s brother Tyler, stayed at the Ronald McDonald House while in Norfolk awaiting Tuesday’s surgery.

The charity organization provides a temporary &uot;home away from home&uot; for families with critically ill children under the age of 21.

&uot;This organization really has helped us,&uot; Peter said. &uot;&uot;It keeps us from having to spend so much money on hotels when we are out of town awaiting surgery.&uot;

Karen said the Ronald McDonald House was not the only helping hand they received.

&uot;The community in general has been overwhelming in their support of Breanna,&uot; Karen said. &uot;We have been overwhelmed by the amount of support.&uot;

Elm Grove Baptist Church outside of Askewville began a ribbon drive for Breanna that eventually spread to several other churches in the area.

&uot;There are ribbons on cars and building all across the area,&uot; Karen said. &uot;I was told that collectively the churches have handed out over 3,000 ribbons.&uot;

Despite having to miss school and making dozens of hospital visits, you won’t find Breanna feeling anything but upbeat.

&uot;I feel okay,&uot; she said the night before she was scheduled to undergo the transplant procedure. &uot;I’m not nervous at all.&uot;

Like most 10 year olds, Breanna was more concerned about getting back to her favorite television shows and her pet than anything going on in the hospital.

&uot;I miss my cat La La,&uot; Breanna said.

&uot;I also can wait to get back to doing ballet.&uot;

Breanna said that her favorite T.V. shows are &uot;Hanna Montana&uot; and the &uot;Cheetah Girls&uot;.

Karen and Peter said they are lucky to have the support of the community, in particular the Community Alternatives Program for Children (C.A.P./C).

The program, part of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, provides cost effective home care for medically fragile children who would normally require extended hospital care.

&uot;There are so many needy families,&uot; Karen said. &uot;Some times working parents with health coverage still find it hard to pay for health care.&uot;

Karen said that deductibles and co-pays can still pile up in a situation like theirs.

The Teetor family said that aside from Breanna’s health, one thing that really concerns them is the lack of donors for Americans who need kidney transplants.

&uot;There are over 85,000 people in this country in need of a kidney transplant,&uot; Peter said. &uot;Unfortunately many people are hesitant to sign up as donors.&uot;

Even though becoming an organ donor is as simple as checking a box on your DMV drivers license application, many Americans are afraid of desecrating their bodies after death.

The Teetors said that more people might volunteer as donors if they were more educated about the issue.

&uot;The procedure that physicians use for organ donors is surgically precise,&uot; Karen said. &uot;Many people who have passed on could still saves lives even after they have left us.&uot;

This Christmas, the Teetor family will be together in mind, body and spirit, in more ways than one.