Indiana boy receives the ultimate birthday gift: a life-saving kidney

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A 4-year-old boy from Fort Wayne recently received the perfect birthday gift– a life-saving kidney.

After receiving care at Riley Hospital for Children since he was born, Henry Whitacre received a kidney transplant on July 18, his 4th birthday.

The donation came from a former friend of his mother's, Colleen Carnes.

Colleen Carnes and Emily Jones

“We could never say thank you enough," said Henry's mother, Emily Jones. "To know it came from someone that has been a part of my life for so long; for me, it’s a very peaceful feeling."

The two hadn't talked since high school, but a Facebook post prompted Colleen to get tested and led to a match.

Colleen and Emily have been friends since kindergarten

“It’s just something everybody should do; your one big act," said Carnes. "You can do more than one, but make a difference, do something great at some point in your life."

Jones said she was grateful to reconnect with an old friend, who helped save her son.

Colleen and Henry

"I’m just kind of like, ‘Ok, God sent her and because God sent her, found her and picked her, then we’re going to be okay for a really long time and she’s going to be ok for a really long time,'" said Jones.

Henry's surgeon, Dr. William Goggins, the surgical director of kidney transplantation at IU Health, said the kidney donor is the miracle of the entire transplant process.

"Surgeons and myself particularly, we’re so blessed with some gifts and talents that we can do things for people," said Dr. Goggins. "But, we really can’t do anything for patients unless somebody’s willing to donate. Truly, having someone motivated to give their kidney is miraculous in times of need when people are going through a tragedy. For people to be able to donate an organ, that’s the true miracle of the whole transplant process.”

Carnes was discharged a few days after the transplant and says she feels great.

Henry will continue to recover at Riley for a few days before heading home to enjoy the last few days of summer.


“Not only is it lifesaving, but it’s life changing," said Jones. "He’s going to get to do all of the things that we’ve been wanting him to do for four years and now we can do it.”

Carnes says she hopes to forever be a part of Henry's life, now that there's a piece of her always with him.

“It’s going to be really fun when he starts getting older and when he starts kind of understanding it more and we can start kind of messing with him a little bit and telling him he has a part of me inside of him," said Carnes. "Right now, he kind of gets it, but how much can a 4-year-old really get?"

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