November 26, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
31°F
test

Kidney ailment doesn’t keep student from lessons

AVON LAKE — The worst thing about having no kidneys is missing class three days a week and feeling left out, said 10-year-old Brandon Miller.

But computer know-how is allowing Brandon to work right alongside other fourth-graders at Erieview Elementary in Avon Lake — even while he’s having dialysis treatments on the other side of Cleveland.

CHUCK HUMEL/CHRONICLE
Ten-year-old Brandon Miller, seen upper left in a window on the electronic blackboard, is undergoing dialysis treatments at the Cleveland Clinic. He is linked up to his class at Erieview Elementary School, learning math lessons taught by fourth grade Laura Smith (right).

“How many numbers are up there on the board?” Erieview teacher Laura Smith asked her class Friday. “How are you going to find the median?”

Most of her students were seated in desks several feet away, but at the head of the class, Brandon’s face was grinning on a live video feed on the corner of an electronic chalkboard.

Even though he was miles away, Brandon could see his classmates and they could see him — and they were all working together to solve the same math problem.

“He can move the cursor, he can talk with the teacher, he can share jokes and stories with his friends,” said Principal Carl Bosworth.
“He can do anything any other student can do.”

Brandon was diagnosed as a baby with a rare blood disease called atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome, which causes high blood pressure and kidney failure.

As a result, he’s much shorter than other children his age and it’s dangerous to exert himself.

“He’s been dealing with it since he was a year old, so it’s really all he knows,” said his mother, Eva Miller. “He’s still a vibrant little boy and he loves sports, but he can’t do a lot that other kids do.”

Brandon

When he was 3, he had his first kidney transplant. Doctors removed both organs, but the transplant didn’t work. They tried again in December 2006, but his body rejected the new kidneys, too.

Now he goes for dialysis every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. His mother said doctors aren’t sure how long his small body can hold out.

Eva said using the computer put a huge smile on Brandon’s face and helped him forget — for just a little while — about his condition.

“It was not fun when I wasn’t with my friends,” he said after using the new technology for the first time. “I like being able to be in class. It’s pretty fun.”

Contact Jason Hawk at 329-7148 or jhawk@chroniclet.com.