Waiting for a kidney
When Brainerd’s police chief arrived at the front door unexpectedly, the teenager on the other side started to wonder about the long arm of the law.
After all, he might have exceeded the speed limit on the Pine Beach Road. But that was months ago.
Instead Chief Corky McQuiston had an invitation. And that was just the beginning of the surprises in store for Wyatt Newby on a recent Sunday.
WHERE IT STARTED
Two years ago, Wyatt, a Brainerd High School senior, was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis or FSGS, a kidney disease.
His kidney was functioning at 90 percent. In the beginning, the outlook indicated Wyatt wouldn’t need a replacement kidney for 20 years. But his mother, Brenda Newby, said follow-up appointments and lab results soon suggested otherwise.
By the late summer of 2013, Wyatt’s kidney was functioning at 33 percent. Two months later, it was down to 13 percent. Then it stopped functioning altogether.
Now Wyatt depends on dialysis treatments three times a week. He waits for a matching donor. His dialysis and its side effects make it a challenge to consistently attend classes.
“I was so depressed I had kidney disease,” Wyatt said. It was a lot to take in. His grandfather suffered from kidney disease and he saw how it took a physical toll.
His family learned a new language around lab values. There were restrictions on food. And an uncertain future.
“Every morning you wake up and think you are still alive,” Wyatt said. “I just want a kidney.”
But he doesn’t like to dwell on those thoughts and suggests a new topic, a little trash-talking about Minnesota sports teams. He is a Seattle football and baseball fan and admits to liking the Chicago Bears.
“Although, Wyatt has had many challenges throughout his life, I am amazed at his determination,” his mother said. She described her son as strong and spunky, with a warrior’s heart.
A TEENAGER’S WISH
The 19-year-old’s heart was initially set on a future that included a military career. Seated at one of his favorite restaurants, the Log Cabin in Brainerd, Wyatt said when his medical challenges ruled out an Army life, he set his heart on being a police officer.
It still offered what he wanted to do — protect people.
And that’s where Brainerd’s chief of police entered the picture that Sunday afternoon. He arrived at Wyatt’s house on the teenager’s birthday.
McQuiston told Wyatt he was nominated for the city’s citizens police academy and offered to take him to the police department in the squad car.
“I’m like ‘Am I getting arrested?’” Wyatt said.
On the drive to the police department in the K-9 squad car, they talked about the patrol rifle, the vehicle, the computer. McQuiston was struck by Wyatt’s sincere interest in the work.
Unknown to Wyatt, his family was dashing ahead to beat him to the police station. McQuiston brought Wyatt in through the garage and back office.
The second part of the surprise was waiting for them inside. Family, friends, teachers, supporters were all gathered along with a birthday cake and gifts. But the biggest moment may have been when Wyatt took an oath and was sworn in, gaining a certificate as an honorary member of the Brainerd Police Department.
Wyatt impressed McQuiston as a young man with integrity and honesty and a fully developed sense of humor.
“That’s important in this line of work,” McQuiston said.
McQuiston said being part of the effort to provide Wyatt with his wish of being a police officer was a great opportunity for the department.
BRIGHTER DAYS FOUNDATION
Putting it all together in time for the birthday was a whirlwind for organizer Connie Lyscio, a board member with the Brighter Days Foundation.
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever been part of,” Lyscio said of the foundation.
The foundation, started in 2009, is a local group that works to make the wishes of children dealing with chronic and life-threatening medical issues come true. Brighter Days Foundation was founded by Jeanni Foss, owner of Edgewood Dental.
The nonprofit group has presented children with iPads, scholarships, gas cards, hunting and fishing trips, even an insulin pump. The gifts are often unique and personal such as the puppy for a boy with cancer whose own dog succumbed to the same disease.
“I don’t think we’ve done a giveaway without everyone in tears at some point,” Lyscio said.
Children in the area are nominated and the foundation raises funds to help the child and the family. They may help 10 children in a year, depending on nominations.
“Some of these kids don’t really have an easy road and their families are with them every step of the way,” Lyscio said.
Brenda Newby said one of her son’s teachers and mentors told the family about witnessing a tree growing in a rock. As the other trees around it grew, the tree in the rock had to fight to survive struggling for so long it grew into a large, beautiful tree.
“He says that Wyatt is that tree, and that despite his struggles and all he has been through, is a beautiful and strong person. I don’t think anyone could have put it better,” Brenda Newby said.
As for the special birthday her son had, she said sometimes saying thank you isn’t enough.
In Wyatt’s case the Brighter Days Foundation put $2,000 into a giveaway with an overnight stay in the Twin Cities for Wyatt’s mom and sister Cali, who is often his chauffeur. On Wyatt’s list was a hamster and an Xbox. “The kid is a hoot, he has such a quick wit and a dry sense of humor,” Lyscio said of Wyatt. She said when Wyatt opened his Xbox, he said “somebody tase me, I’m getting out of hand.”
WAITING FOR A KIDNEY
Wyatt said he may look to be a police officer in Seattle, where he noted the winters are warmer. People don’t have to shovel rain, he said. And he has a specific interest in being an animal relocation specialist of those exotic species — even poisonous snakes.
Wyatt’s diminutive stature may be overshadowed by a big personality. At senior prom last year when he was announced with his date, Wyatt listed his name as Donald Sutherland. This year, he’s thinking of Robert DeNiro. Lyscio said Wyatt’s the kind of person she’d want for a friend.
“I’m just hoping there is somebody out there,” Wyatt said. When a mother of a large family was getting tested for a match, he said he couldn’t accept. “If I would have taken her kidney it would have been selfish of me. I’m a future cop. I’m the guy who let’s the kids see their parents again.”
And a new kidney has other rewards.
Wyatt said: “When I get my kidney, I can eat whatever I want.”