Mother to donate kidney to son

Published on Thu, Mar 2, 2006 by ara Nelson

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Mother to donate kidney to son

By Tara Nelson

Mary Lyn Nair, of Birch Bay, believes that adversities are really opportunities to help others and create community. Nair, a mother of four, including Rishi, 4, who struggles with a type of chronic kidney failure, said through her son’s struggle, she has learned to see the joy in life even amongst the difficulties and pain.

What’s more, Nair used her experience to reach out and help others. Last month, she started a non-profit foundation to help other special needs children called Rishi’s Gift Foundation. The organization will offer financial assistance and information on local resources to the parents of those children.

“When a child with chronic illness comes into your life you begin to change your perspective; they teach you to cherish each moment and not take life or each other for granted,” she said. “I look at it as a testament to my character and that it is an opportunity to love and to have compassion and to have deep understanding for other families who grow through this.”

Nair, an advocate of natural and homeopathic therapies, said many of the more gentle and alternative treatments are not covered by health insurance plans and she wanted to offer parents a different choice in choosing treatments for their children. She also enlisted the expertise of Birch Bay nurse Denise Skinner, who specializes in autism.

To kick things off, Nair will coordinate a multicultural benefit concert Saturday, March 11 at 3 p.m. at the Blaine Performing Arts Center, the idea for which was inspired by her French Cajun background and her husband’s East Indian heritage.

Her daughter Shanti, 10, will perform classical Indian dance and song, which she learned in India. Other performances include a local Hebrew family who will perform Israeli folk dance; a karate demo by Drake’s Dragons set to Asian music; Will Nichols, a world champion Scottish bagpiper of Whatcom County, coupled with Scottish and Irish country dancing; and finally, the popular Northwest vocalist Charles Cohen will sing “A Wonderful World” in a closing duet with Rishi.
A local art show will follow at 4 p.m. featuring the works of such local artists as Jody Bergsma, who created special works for the event, and Joanne of J & S Pots and Things, who will donate some hand-painted Japanese bagodas.

“It’s definitely a community effort, that’s what I love about it,” she said. “For me as a parent, it’s going to be joyful just to sit back and watch everyone and the smiles on their faces. We want to bring joy to the parents and the children.”

Rishi was born on May 12, 2001 with kidneys that would never grow. He lives through extensive and cumbersome daily medical intervention and attention. By age one, he was forced to use a gastro-intestinal tube, which he still uses, and by age two, a catheter was placed in his abdomen to begin peritoneal dialysis for 10 hours each night at home.

Nair said that despite all the operations, the blood work, the shots, the diagnostic tests and medication, Rishi has maintained a healthy, positive outlook on life, recalling one incident when Rishi was undergoing regular treatments at Children’s Hospital in Seattle.
“The technicians there would sometimes get emotional because he would be in pain,” she said. “And one time Rishi reached out and touched the cheek of the nurse that was trying to put the needle in and he said, ‘It’s okay.’ So that’s the part of him that teaches me to go beyond pain, to go behind sorrow and to find a joy inside yourself and life because that’s your opportunity while you’re here.

“A lot of times people see our children as special needs kids and people think that our children aren’t perfect. But for us, we see the inside of the child and the personality of the child and the spirit of the child and they are perfect and they do have something to offer. The autistic child, for example, has a great joy to offer the world even though he may not be able to speak, and maybe a child can’t walk but maybe they have a great talent to share with us. There are some children who are writing poetry that is amazing that adults don’t even think of so I find that they are little angels sent to us.”

Nair’s next goal is to donate one of her own kidneys in an attempt to give her son a chance at a better life. She asked for the surgery during the first week of May, hoping that on May 12, his birthday, he would be feeling better than he ever had in his life. Nair, however, said the surgery was something Rishi chose through his own will.

“One morning he woke up and he picked up the tubes and said, ‘Mommy, I want off, I don’t want to do this anymore,’” she said. “That’s when I decided it wouldn’t be right to push it off anymore. As a mom, I had to make the decision that I wanted him to be able to run down the beach and have fun, and do karate. I so hope this will offer him the freedom from tubes and certain medication and allow him to do simple things that most children do – like go swimming.”

When asked if she was scared of the potential risks of the surgery, Nair said there’s risk in everything.

“When you start reading the educational part of it, there’s so much risk involved in doing it versus not, but you have to kind of override those risks,” she said. “There’s risk that everything you do in life but you have to look more toward progressing, instead.”

During the nine-month recovery process, Nair’s two other children, Kamal, 9, and Nirmal, 7, will go through an extensive program at the International Sahaj public school in the Himalayan mountains in India.
There, they will focus on reading and math skills as well as Indian classical dance, art, and the Hindi language.

Individuals interested in donating to Rishi’s Gift Foundation can contact Mary Lyn Nair at 371-5387 or by visiting
Tickets for the multicultural concert are $5 for adults and $3 for children, and are available at Pacific Building Center in Blaine, Whatcom Physical Therapy, Bellingham Bay Gymnastics and all branches of the Bank of the Pacific.