Sometimes it pays to take the long view. That’s the summary of the journey of Kelvin Brown and his devoted family.
Kelvin was born with sickle cell disease, and his parents, Emmanuel and Sharon, knew there would be difficult times. In 2019, Kelvin was admitted to Duke Children’s Hospital for a bone-marrow transplant in hopes of curing the disease that had caused pain and illness throughout his childhood. With little brother Emmanuel on board as his bone-marrow donor, the family was hopeful.
As it is for all patients, the transplant was difficult. For Kelvin, there were expected challenges like extreme fatigue and post-transplant infections. But there were also unseen bumps in the road, including treatment-induced diabetes and, later, kidney disease and total kidney failure.
With their hometown 3.5 hours from Durham, the Browns relied on Ronald McDonald House as their home base. More than the physical and financial support of a place to stay was the comfort of being part of an extended family of people experiencing similar challenges. The Browns became leaders at the House, checking in on other families and encouraging them during their own tough times.
While Kelvin began a series of surgeries to replace his hips and shoulders, ravaged by years of sickle cell disease, he also faced life-saving dialysis of more than 12 hours each day. He was placed on the kidney transplant list, and the faithful family began a long wait.
After many months, in what can only be described as a miracle, another family staying at RMH of Durham heard about Kelvin’s search for a living kidney donor. Feeling called again and again to pursue testing, this RMH “extended family” member was approved as a nearly perfect match. Kelvin was notified there was a living donor approved by Duke, but he did not know until later there was a Ronald McDonald House connection.
During his journey of many years, Kelvin graduated from high school, using a walker to cross the stage. He enrolled in college and began his studies of drafting and graphic design remotely during the pandemic. He’s now a college graduate and has begun his own business designing shirts and apparel.
All told, the Brown family spent more than 900 days living at Ronald McDonald House. They describe their years at RMH and their medical journey in one word: family.