The personality of 6-year-old Anthony Tiger Ojeda is best described by his nickname, “Tony the Tiger.”
In the fifth month of her pregnancy, his mother, Marlene White, learned that Anthony's kidneys were riddled with so many cysts they couldn't be counted. Before he was born, she was told that his lungs were not fully developed.
“They told me not to expect him to come out screaming, but he did,” White said.
When one form of dialysis failed, Anthony underwent another. He suffered several bacterial infections. He was anemic. By August 2009, the wounds his catheter left on his abdomen had to be restitched at least once a week.
On her 23rd birthday, White held a prayer meeting with her sisters and cousins and performed an American Indian ceremony on her son's behalf.
The next morning, she received a phone call. A kidney had been found.
In the year and a half since the transplant, Anthony has suffered a couple of episodes with organ rejection sparked by flu and pneumonia, but he pulled through. But at age 5, he still couldn't walk.
“He couldn't bear weight on his arms or legs, so he army-crawled,” White said.
“It was sad because I saw my two youngest ones walk before he did, but that also motivated him,” she said.
Chemotherapy strengthened Anthony's immune system. Soon he could stomach more foods. His doctor visits slowed from three or four a week to once a month. And in January 2011, Anthony took his first step.