Deep connections can sometimes come from unexpected places. Such is the case for the Cumming and Briggs family, who have become close family friends through ringette due to Katie Read Cumming, Emersyn Briggs and Ellie Briggs, who all started playing ringette many years ago. While it's quite common for teammates and their families to become close friends, the Cumming and Briggs family will soon share a special connection that goes beyond the rink.
13-year-old Kael Read Cumming is Katie's younger brother who has battled kidney complications his entire life due to being born at 31 weeks old. He is currently in need of a kidney transplant, which is where the Briggs family steps in. Emersyn and Ellie's mother Carmen Briggs has stepped up to donate her kidney to Kael.
Kael's mother Shelley Read Cumming says the kidney donation is nothing short of life-changing for Kael and the family.
"It's basically like starting life all over again, and I know for Kael he's a very chill kid, not a lot bothers him even for all he's been through. I think he's really excited for this but at the same time I think he's not even really sure what it's going to mean for him just because he's been sick his whole life, he's never felt 100%, so I don't even know if he really realizes how life-changing it's going to be," she said.
Shelley explained Kael is on dialysis 21 hours a day, which has greatly limited what he is able to do. He lives at home with his family, but since he needs constant care Shelley and/or her husband have to be at home with him during that time. While Shelley is most excited for Kael to have the chance to go to school, make friends, and join clubs and activities, she's also looking forward to the extra free time the whole family will get as well. It's not just Kael that will get the gift of freedom; the entire family will be able to return to "normal" life.
"It's like Kael being born again and just having a chance to do everything that we've had to hold back on for years, and mostly just being a kid."
As for Carmen, she was compelled to make the donation when she thought about her youngest daughter, who like Kael, was born prematurely at 24 weeks old and needed extensive hospital care.
"I understand the position they (Cumming family) are in to a point of not being able to help Kael and not being able to do anything for him. So this is just kind of a way from one parent to another to say 'hey, I can help,' why wouldn't I?" Carmen said.
While most would view donating a kidney as a huge deal, Carmen says it's not a big thing to her, and she's mainly focused on the fact she had the opportunity to give Kael a chance at having a healthy childhood.
"Kael is really the hero in all of this, he's got such a great attitude through all of this and all his struggles. I'm just the silent donor, none of this is about me. I don't look at it that way. It's all about giving Kael some new choices and a new lease on life."
The kidney transplant is scheduled for February 7, 2023. Shelley explained there will be significant costs associated with this, like Kael needing to go to the hospital for six weeks straight after the transplant, travelling to labs, and other costs associated with taking additional time off work.
To Support Kael and Carmen, stickers will soon be sold for $5 each, which can be found at various community locations once everything is organized. They can also be purchased directly from Shelley by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org or e-transferring her to that same email account to make a donation.