April 26, 2024

National Pediatric Transplant Week- A Heroic Donor's Ultimate Gift

Written by: Kelley McClellan

At the core of our mission to save and heal lives through organ, eye and tissue donation are the heroic donors we serve! It’s National Pediatric Transplant Week which takes place the last full week of National Donate Life Month in April. Donate Life America (DLA) partners with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the American Society of Transplantation (AST), American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS) and Transplant Families to bring awareness to the younger heroes who save all ages of transplant recipients. 

For us, part of this week is dedicated to highlighting the tiny heroes we serve and their courageous families who make this decision on their behalf. Meet Elijah Burkhart-Estrada. He was born on April 12, 2020, six days after his favorite auntie’s birthday. The moment Elijah was born he was a perfect and quiet little man. From a newborn to the day he passed away, he had these gorgeous BIG blue eyes and a beautiful smile that touched your heart. Elijah loved a lot of things in his precious two years of life. He had such a fascination with cars, including the real and toy variety. Elijah and his dad would go to all different types of car shows together. He was the most handsome and kind little man with a huge heart for his mom and sister. Even when Elijah’s sister was being mean to him, he still did certain things to make her laugh and smile. He was a big cuddler from the moment he was born, and his favorite thing was to lay in bed with his mom, cuddled up with cartoons and a cup. Elijah had a big and curious mind for everything around him especially when he started to swim the summer that he tragically passed away. He grew such a fascination for swimming.  

Burkart, Elijah-1
Elijah may not have gotten a lot of time on Earth, but in the 814 days he was here, he made everyone in his life feel extremely happy, loved and important. His laugh and smile filled a room, and those moments will never be forgotten. Elijah is forever in his family’s hearts and minds each day. They miss him tremendously. The reason they decided that Elijah should be an organ, eye and tissue donor was so that a part of him could still live on through his legacy of kindness even if he couldn’t.  

Pediatric transplants are slightly different from other organ donations because organ size is critical to a successful transplant. For example, children often have better post-transplant outcomes with a child-sized organ. Currently, there are over 2,100 children under 18 years old on the national organ transplant waiting list. Additionally, 27% of children waiting for an organ transplant are under the age of five years old. Many of the medical conditions that lead to the need for transplantation happen as early as infancy. This includes conditions like acute kidney failure, biliary atresia, chronic kidney disease, congenital heart disease, cardiomyopathy and cystic fibrosis, but other issues like acute illnesses or injuries may also occur. In 2023, more than 1,900 children received lifesaving transplants, matched from nearly 900 pediatric organ donors. While the heroic donors ranged in age from newborns to 17 years old, most were between 11 and 17 years old (though in 2023, 99 pediatric organ donors were under the age of 12 months old). Lastly, every year, thousands of pediatric cornea and tissue donors help restore sight and heal and save numerous lives.  

We are honored to serve heroic donors of all ages and ensure that they’re able to give the ultimate gift when their family makes this powerful decision on their behalf. Learn more about pediatric donation and transplantation here