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Lexi and Austin Jensen: Kidney transplants plus loving care

Most University of Minnesota pediatric patient stories have a similar start: Parents discover a medical issue and find their way to University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital.

Not so with Lexi and Austin Jensen, each born with only one partially functioning kidney. First, they arrived at the U of M Children’s Hospital—one of the world’s leading kidney transplant centers—and then they found their parents.

“We met the twins at 5 months, and they already had a relationship with the nephrology team,” says adoptive mother Lorie Jensen, R.N. “They knew these babies inside and out—literally.”

Lexi received the first kidney transplant; unfortunately, her body functions wouldn’t stabilize. Tests revealed she also had liver cancer. Despite having a new kidney, 1-year-old Lexi underwent a liver resection and chemotherapy.

“Lightning struck a third time a year later,” says Lorie, when Lexi suddenly experienced respiratory arrest. She was diagnosed with central sleep apnea—rare for a child her age. Now, the 3-year-old has a tracheotomy and must be fully vented for sleeping.

“Lexi is a busy little girl,” Lorie says. “Her trach doesn’t slow her down.”

Meanwhile, Austin struggled on peritoneal dialysis at home and had to begin hemodialysis at the hospital three times a week. For the Wisconsin family, that meant driving roughly two and a half hours round-trip. Yet, once he had his kidney transplant, “Austin has sailed along ever since,” says his mom.

“Thanks to the research, the knowledge, the skills, and the support from the University team—Dr. Priya Verghese, Dr. Lydia Najera, and so many others—the twins have their lives back.”

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