Family still seeks kidney for son

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH — James and Sandra Colantino are still praying for a miracle in the shape of a donated kidney for their son, Christian.

Their search started a year ago, with a bulletin item at their church, Our Lady Star of the Sea. Since then, Christian’s story has been told in Catholic and secular newspapers in South Carolina and Pennsylvania. The Catholic Miscellany reported on the story April 20.

Colantino said six people have approached the family in recent months, offering to donate a kidney. Two were from South Carolina, including fellow parishioner Ed Vaitis, and four were from the family’s home state of Pennsylvania. All of the prospective donors were turned down for reasons ranging from the wrong blood type to medical problems, he said. The Colantinos are considered ineligible because they are in their 70s.

Both Christian, 44, and his brother Jimmy, 46, have been blind since birth and have learning disabilities. Christian has only 18 percent kidney function, while Jimmy’s kidney problems are less severe, their father said.

The Colantinos lived in Greensburg, Pa., before moving south seven years ago. Both brothers worked in their father’s shoe store there.

Christian is being treated with medication and is not on dialysis. He is on the waiting list for a new kidney at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston and at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. Colantino said the MUSC list screens for available organs locally and in North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. Christian could possibly receive a cadaver kidney if one becomes available.

Colantino said the family is grateful for the medical treatment they have found in the North Myrtle Beach area, especially the care given by Dr. Jay Elms, a local nephrologist.

Colantino said that Christian “gets depressed a lot” while waiting for a new kidney, but spends a lot of his time listening to the radio and reading Braille books.

“Often, he’ll go through six to eight books a week,” James said.

He wants prospective donors to know that there is no cost to them to be tested to see if they are a compatible donor. Christian’s blood type is O positive, so a donor needs type O blood too.

Meanwhile, the Colantinos are relying on their faith to get them through the long wait.

“We absolutely pray a lot and go to church,” Colantino said. “We’re relying on the love of God and trying our best.”

Anyone interested in donating can contact the Colantinos at (843) 390-4213.