Fighting the fight

Gavin relaxing on his boppieFighting the fight
By Hillary Dickerson
Originally printed in the Darlington Republican Journal on October 6, 2006.

GAVIN WINSLOW, the grandson of Nancy and Dean Winslow, Darlington, was born with serious health problems and is currently in kidney failure. At 7 months, he undergoes 10 hours of dialysis a day and is waiting until he’s big enough 18 months and 22 pounds for a transplant. At 7 months, the lives of most babies are pretty laid back. There’s eating, sleeping, more eating, some playing, lots of smiling and more sleeping.

But for Gavin Winslow, the grandson of Nancy and Dean Winslow, Darlington, and the son of Jay and Jill Winslow, Lake Mills, his first few months of life have been a struggle, to say the least. Ten hours of Gavin’s day are consumed with the dialysis treatment he needs simply to survive.

Gavin, who was born Feb. 23 with a collapsed lung, bladder obstruction and in kidney failure, is waiting for the timing to be just right. When he reaches 22 pounds expected right around the 18-month mark he’ll undergo a kidney transplant.

Aside from his serious, life-threatening health issues, though, Gavin is just like other babies his age with his heart-melting smiles.

If one thing has been certain during these last few trying months, it’s that Gavin armed with his big brown eyes and infectious grin has proven himself as a fighter. In fact, on his website, under a picture of tiny Gavin in the hospital, just hours old and hooked up to all sorts of monitors, it tells the story of this baby with the will to live: “Gavin’s first day, we were told he wouldn’t make it, but he fought the fight and won!”

Gavin’s health issues didn’t come as a surprise at birth, his grandma Nancy Winslow explained. In Jill’s fifth month of pregnancy, an ultrasound detected abnormalities. There was no amniotic fluid surrounding the placenta, which meant the kidneys weren’t working properly.

For the next four months, each day, Jill drove back and forth to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, where she and Gavin were closely monitored. Near the end of the pregnancy, Jill went twice a day, staying with her parents in Waukesha to cut down on the commute.

Doctors, Winslow said, prepared the family for the worst-case scenario.

And then on Feb. 23, just days after his dad’s 29th birthday, Gavin had a rough entry into the world, about three weeks early. Weighing in at 7-pounds, 2-ounces, Gavin spent the next 76 days in the hospital, undergoing tests, procedures and surgeries.

“I prayed a lot,” said Winslow, looking back on those stressful, emotional days surrounding the birth of her fifth grandchild. She and Dean drove to Milwaukee to see Gavin the day he was born. “It was pretty scary for a while. It was a miracle. It was definitely a miracle that he made it.”

Finally, on May 10, Gavin was able to go home. But it wasn’t the traditional homecoming. In addition to all the baby gear that filled the Winslows’ Lake Mills home, there were boxes and boxes of medical supplies for Gavin’s dialysis.

As Gavin undergoes the dialysis each night a process that takes 10 hours he’s growing.

At his most recent check-up, he weighed 14-pounds, and he’s expected to start on a growth hormone soon to help facilitate the growth necessary for him to undergo the transplant when he reaches 22 pounds, hopefully by 18 months. Winslow said both Jay and Jill will begin the testing soon to see who is the closest match.

“The transplant is definitely needed to save his life,” said Winslow.

Meanwhile, the family waits. They pray. They do their best to keep a positive outlook.

But, Winslow admitted, tears filling her eyes, this is the most difficult time in their lives.

Along with his family, Gavin made his first visit to Darlington Sept. 10 to meet the whole family. “He was just smiling at everyone that day,” Winslow noted.

When he does undergo the transplant, Winslow explained, the kidney will last between 15 and 20 years, at which time another transplant will be necessary. His entire life, following the transplant, Gavin will be on a regimen of anti-rejection medications that will cost between $1,500 and $1,800 each month.

Jay and Jill, Winslow said, are consumed now with fund-raising for the transplant. In mid-February Winslow is planning an auction fund-raiser in Darlington to help raise the $100,000 the family needs. There are currently fund-raisers underway in the Lake Mills and Milwaukee area.

Prior to the February fund-raiser in this area, anyone who would like to donate can mail checks or money orders, payable to Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA), with “In honor of Gavin Winslow” written on the memo line of the check, to 2501 COTA Dr., Bloomington, IN 47403, or visit to donate using a credit card.

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