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Kidney Awareness Month Featuring Grace LaSell

By: Ayaan Abbasi

Grace LaSell went on a family vacation to Universal Studios in June of 2019. On that trip, she constantly was drinking water, something that her family attributed to extreme dehydration. However, after she began to experience swelling in her stomach, hands, and legs, her family knew that they had to take her to a hospital when they returned to Indiana.

At the doctor’s office when they got back home, the severity of what Grace was experiencing became apparent. They immediately sent her to Riley Hospital for Children where a PD catheter was placed during surgery. This catheter was put in so she could begin receiving dialysis for what they originally thought was just “limited kidney function.”

However, following a kidney biopsy surgery, it was found that she had ANCA vasculitis, an autoimmune disease that left her with practically zero kidney function. She needed a transplant right away. Grace was 12 years old. 

Over the course of 26 days, she spent 12 in the ICU and 14 in the nephrology unit. Those 26 days were some of the darkest for the family, but they said that the Riley staff helped to keep them positive and always went the extra mile.

As they waited at home for a kidney match, Grace’s parents were trained to do at home dialysis and how to best care for Grace. On St Patrick’s Day in 2021, they finally received the call that they had been waiting for: there was a kidney match for Grace.

The transplant was successful and at her dischargement from Riley, staff lined the walls and cheered her on as she rang a special transplant bell.

Following this moment, she had several scares of going into kidney rejection, and in July of 2023, she was placed back on dialysis in hopes of receiving a second kidney transplant. She still goes to dialysis three times a week at Riley, but that has not stopped her.

Grace, now 17,  is involved with varsity golf, competitive show choir, and musical theater in high school. Additionally, she has spoken at multiple Make A Wish events and IU Dance Marathons and was even named Riley Champion of the Year. 

“I am so honored to give back to the place that has given me so much and [to] serve as a 2024 Riley Champion,” she said.

In honor of Kidney Awareness Month, we share Grace’s story and her continued mission to give back to Riley Hospital for Children. 

“I am so blessed to be surrounded at IUDM with people that are equally as passionate to give back,” she said.

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