By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mason Patton was a son, a brother, a friend and a father.
He also was a two-time kidney transplant recipient who spent his early years being treated for kidney disease at Riley Hospital for Children.
Monday marked the eighth anniversary of Mason’s passing at the age of 38.
He might have been a grown man and a dad, but to Denise and Mark Patton of Crawfordsville, he was their little boy. The same boy with the goofy sense of humor and sunny disposition, never mind his illness.
It was fitting then that Monday was a gorgeous day in Indianapolis. Under sunny skies, a new Riley wagon was launched into service in the name of Team Mason – the family and friends who have kept his memory alive and raised an astonishing amount of money – well over $100,000 – over the past decade for kidney patients and families.
Danielle Shaw, with Riley Children’s Foundation, said the red wagons are synonymous with Riley, going back a half-century.
“It’s such a special thing for our patients and families,” she said. “It’s a happy memory from something that can be really difficult. We are so grateful for families like yours who want to give back in a really beautiful way.”
Shaw shared that she will be donating a kidney herself in a few months, so she understands the passion the Patton family has for kidney donation awareness.
March is National Kidney Month.
Mason was fortunate to live a fairly normal childhood, despite the Alport syndrome that attacked his kidneys. He was five days shy of his 21st birthday when he underwent his first transplant at Indiana University Hospital (before it was part of IU Health).
His buddies celebrated by bringing tiny bottles of alcohol to his room (that would remain unopened). His sister, Katina, presented him with a birthday cake in his hospital room.
The kidney, donated by his Uncle Mike Patton (who was on hand for the wagon presentation Monday), lasted about 10 years.
Not long after the surgery, Mason and his uncle were in Hilton Head when some girls who were collecting shells commented on the scar that ran from Mike’s stomach around to his back.
Mike told the girls he had gotten into a fight with a shark, which suitably impressed them. Today’s transplant scars are a fraction of the size of those earlier ones.
Mason needed dialysis for a couple of years before he received a second kidney from his cousin. Unfortunately, that kidney lasted only a short time.
The family formed Team Mason two years before he passed away.
“We decided we would do our best to give back to whoever has helped us in the past and whoever needs help in the future,” Denise said.
That includes Christmas gifts for Riley dialysis patients and those in Crawfordsville, where Mason received treatment. The Pattons also started a dialysis library in Crawfordsville because Mason was a big reader.
“It’s from our hearts, and it really helps us to help them,” Denise said.
Raising money for a Riley wagon made sense, she said, because she remembers using them when Mason was a little boy, and she wants other kids to have that simple pleasure.
Her mama heart has never truly healed, but she finds comfort in helping others in her son’s name.
“We loved him to death. He had such an old soul, and he never complained. It’s really hard without him.”
In Mason’s honor and to raise awareness of the need for living kidney donors. David McCartney, a member of Team Mason, donated a kidney to a stranger three years ago. McCartney, who was featured in People magazine and on “60 Minutes,” is running races in all 50 states to encourage people to “share their spare.”