When Caitlin Pendzinski was born 15 years ago, her parents were told to “take her home and enjoy her,” because she did not have long to live.
“They said her kidney disease was extremely rare, and she would never be 1,” said her mother, Tina Gamble. But Caitlin proved them wrong - she had a kidney transplant at age 4 and has just graduated from eighth grade at Monroe City Middle School.
Caitlin was born in Mountain Home, Ark., and her family now lives in Monroe City, Mo.
Tina believes God had prepared her for a baby with a health problem, because “when I was pregnant, I knew something was wrong. I asked God to make her better, and all I could hear was ‘For My glory.’”
Caitlin had her first daily dialysis when she was 13 days old, Tina explained. It was done “every night at home, and she started improving. They said a lot of kids never improve.
“She came off dialysis for a year and then had to start again about a year and a half before she had kidney transplant” at the Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, Ark.
Her kidney donor was an 18-year-old boy, the victim of a traffic accident, Tina said. The doctors said the new kidney “couldn’t have been a better match.”
The donor’s family remains confidential unless the family decides to get in touch with the recipient, Tina said. “When they got a letter saying a 4-year-old girl got one of his kidneys,” they decided to get in touch.
Donor shared nickname
The kidney donor was Mark Pinckard, the son of Bill and Jodie Pinckard of El Dorado, Ark. Now Caitlin “is on Facebook with them,” Tina said. Caitlin has some nicknames, and prefers Nugget, but the family calls her Pooh Bear, Tina said. “It is ironic - they called Mark, Pooh Bear, too.”
Before receiving the kidney, Caitlin had to meet certain conditions. “She had to weigh 35 pounds,” Tina said. “She was big enough. She weighed about 32 pounds - she was right at the mark.”
Since her successful transplant, Caitlin has since been the hospital a few times with other illness. She may not need another transplant, Tina said. “They usually wear out in seven to 10 years, but all her blood tests come back perfect.”
Although Kaitlin did not want to be quoted, Tina said, “she wants to thank the doctors and everybody that’s ever helped her and prayed for her. ... Many, many prayers go up for her,” including from their church, the Apostolic Holiness Church in Hannibal.
Page 2 of 2 - Caitlin has a large family, including her stepdad, Scott Gamble, her dad and stepmother, Fred and Lori Pendzinski of New London; and “a large family of siblings,” her mother said.
Before moving to Monroe City less than two years ago, Kaitlin attended schools in Palmyra, New London and Mark Twain Middle School in Center.
In Monroe City, “she is a cheerleader,” Tina said, although she can’t do all the physical moves. “She was in Honor Choir at her school this year and tried out for a play for next year at Monroe City High School. “She is a very smart girl,” Tina added. “She is doing really good.”
Caitlin also has a career goal. “She wants to be a renal doctor and take care of little kids that have kidney diseases. ... She goes to Cardinal Glennon Hospital now and every year she goes to a kidney camp in Tennessee.”
‘Now Caitlin Can’
book about her
A children’s book about Caitlin, ‘Now Caitlin Can’ was published several years ago. It was written by Ramona Wood, a friend of the donor’s family.
It is written in the voice of Caitlin’s brother, Freddie Pendzinski, who is now 21. He was 6 when she was born.
The book includes a picture of her kidney donor, Mark, his family and her family.
Tina reported that Mark had once “made a comment that they could take everything they want, because he knows where he is going, in heaven, so he did not worry about it.”
The book “talks about how many people need donors,” Tina said. Caitlin “still gets excited about it, and it is amazing how people read it and think about donating.”
The book is in several area schools. Copies are in the elementary schools in Palmyra and New London, as well as Monroe City schools and Mark Twain Junior High.
“The goal is to get them to all the children’s hospitals in dialysis units,” Tina reported.
Ther book also is available on amazon.com.