Little Girl Living Life to the Fullest Thanks to Ultimate Donation from Stranger

April 21, 2017 10:55 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- You don't expect to have to handle the stress of a disease, a stroke and an organ transplant all in one lifetime, but one girl has experienced all of these things, by the age of 12.

BilliJo Bowman was diagnosed with Henoch Schonlein Purpura when she was 7-years-old. It's a disease that causes inflammation of the blood vessels.


However, BilliJo's condition was rare, because it was also attacking her kidneys, which brought her to Rochester, searching for a solution.

"There were no sleepovers, no going to other people's houses,” BilliJo said.  

Up until this point, BilliJo had not had the normal life experiences of a 12-year-old girl from Missouri.

"And then she got red dots on her elbows and her knees. So I took her to her pediatrician and she diagnosed her with HSP," her mom, Candace Bowman, said.

All the Bowmans could do was follow all the rules and hope the disease would go into remission on its own, until one morning, things took a turn for the worse.

“So I walked in and she had the remote in her hand, and I said, ‘What are you doing honey?’ And she said, ‘I don’t know what button to push,’ and I knew right then something was wrong,” Candace Bowman said. “I said, ‘What do you mean you don’t know what button to push?’ and right then, her speech started slurring, her eyes. I immediately grabbed her blood pressure cuff [and] her medication, but it was too late, she was already stroking.” 

BilliJo was airlifted to the hospital, but had to be revived on the way. Once she got to the hospital, she was put on life support for a few days

"I woke up, and I was not feeling good, and I was gagging, but I didn't have anything to actually throw up because I couldn't eat," BilliJo said.  

After many more hospital visits, BilliJo’s HSP has been in remission now for 2-and-a-half years, but the damage it did to her kidneys kept her on dialysis.

She was living half a life.

After a visit to Mayo Clinic a year ago, BilliJo was on the transplant list by May 12, 2016. Less than a year later, a doctor called with some life-changing news.  

"And when mom answered, he said, 'How fast can you get here?'" BilliJo said.

She was finally getting a kidney.

"We drove all night and got here at 7:30 in the morning, and from what I understand at 11:40 in the morning on Wednesday the 29th, they were putting the kidney in her," Candace Bowman said.

Three weeks later, BilliJo and the kidney are working well together with no signs of rejection. If all goes according to plan, she could live with her kidney for 30 years.

BilliJo and her entire family are so grateful for this gift of a better life.

"We're just very happy. We're very blessed," Candace Bowman said.

BilliJo will be featured as this year’s guest speaker for the Gift of Life Transplant House’s Gala of the Decades.

The fundraiser will be held Aug. 26 at the signature airport-hanger out at the Rochester airport.


Elise Romas

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