Tucson toddler fights for his life through cancer, kidney transplant

Young boy fights for his life after kidney transplant rejection

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A Tucson toddler, given a second chance at life, is now fighting to live another day.

With an infectious laugh and a personality to match it, watching 3-year-old Avery Schillinger play, it’s hard to see the pain he’s now become accustomed to.

“He’s a miracle from the start,” Jessica Shillinger, Avery’s mother, said.

When Jessica was 28 weeks pregnant, she learned Avery had no bladder and both of his kidneys were not working. Jessica said doctors didn’t think he would make it.

“It was hard. It totally hit me like a train,” she said. “Part of me never left that room, let’s just say that. That’s when his journey started.”

About a year after he was born, Jessica said both of Avery’s kidneys were removed. He was put on dialysis and underwent countless procedures.

“He’s been under anesthesia over 70 times,” she said.

So, the Schillinger’s plastered Arizona with fliers, in desperate need of a donor.

“Unfortunately, I am not a match,” she said. “I wish to God I was because I would give him both my kidneys in a heartbeat and trade him places.”

In the summer of 2019, shortly after being put on the transplant wait list, the family got the call they had been waiting for.

“It was an adult kidney [from a deceased donor]. I plan to reach out to the donor’s family and thank them for the gift that saved [Avery’s] life,” Jessica said. “Ever since he got that kidney, he has just thrived.”

However, recently, the family learned some devastating news.

Avery is rejecting his kidney. Jessica says he also has cancer.

“It’s a post-transplant cancer that’s formed,” Jessica said. “Usually, it’s most commonly in the first year of transplant. It usually attacks tissues or tonsils first.”

Now on infusions and steroids for both the cancer and the rejection, all they can do is wait.

“He got me through the tough times, because I keep seeing him fight through it,” Jessica said. “He’s so perfect. In my mind, he is perfect.”

With many more trips to Phoenix coming up, little Avery could use some distractions in the Children’s Hospital. He loves books, puzzles, cars and cards. To brighten his day, you can reach Jessica at jessilee81@yahoo.com. Anyone who wants to drop off a gift can do so at Summit Funding, located at 5151 E. Broadway Boulevard. Suite 700. Ask for Avery’s aunt, Amanda Pro.

To follow Avery’s journey, visit his Facebook page.

For information on how to help the family with ongoing medical bills, click here.

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