Waxhaw boy awaits intestine transplant

Mar. 19, 2013 @ 09:46 PM

Four-year-old Anthony LaPenna is an average kid. He enjoys playing with his older brother and sister, likes watching television–especially “Full House” and “Sponge Bob Squarepants”– he likes to draw and play video games. 

However, Anthony has to be hooked to a port in his chest for 17 hours of a 24-hour day in order to absorb nutrients, he has a tube to vent his stomach and an ostemy bag to help with other bodily functions. 

At three weeks old, Anthony was diagnosed with a rare disorder called intestinal pseudo-obstruction, meaning the nerves in his lower intestine do not connect. Therefore his body does not pump his stomach and he does not absorb nutrients through the food he eats. 

He will require a liver and small intestine transplant, which doctors knew from the beginning, though he was not put on the list until February of this year.

Though the transplant will help Anthony, it is not a cure, his mother Colleen LaPenna said.

Anthony often talks about when he gets his “new belly” and the things he will do then. He hopes to have a big party and is excited to eat spaghetti and meatballs.

Colleen is excited for

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her son, but is also excited that he will be able to jump out of bed in the morning to be with his siblings. Currently, he is hooked up to tubes and cannot get out of bed without assistance. The same is true when he is sitting on the sofa. She is looking forward to him “not feeling like he’s left behind,” she said.

His father, Frank LaPenna, is also excited for his son.

“What I will be excited about is to get to see him go swimming,” Frank said. Anthony cannot get the port hooked to his body wet, so he is unable to swim and other activities.

They are excited that he will be able to do everyday things, like going to Kindergarten. 

“He is a super smart kid,” Colleen said, adding that he hit all of his childhood milestones.

Anthony’s older brother Christian, 7, is happy about the pending transplant and is excited that his little brother will be able to play more often. His older sister Julia, 11, is excited that her brother will be able to go swimming, play sports, be more active and eat. 

The call that they found a donor could come at any time. The operation will be performed at Duke University Medical Center in Durham. They will be in the hospital for three to five weeks. 

Colleen and her husband make a good team, she said, though there are times when they need more than each other. 

The LaPenna family lives in Waxhaw and the community often helps them with carpooling, hot meals and watching the children.

“We could not have done it without the friends and neighbors,” Colleen said.

The community is also rallying around the family through fundraising efforts. 

Through the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA), who is organizing a series of community events to help raise money to assist the family during the operation. The volunteers are hoping to raise about $60,000.

A national charity, COTA has helped more than 1,900 children and raised more than $65 million. 

To date, local volunteers in Waxhaw and New York have raised about $12,000. The LaPenna family moved here from New York and family there are also helping in fundraising efforts. 

In May, there will be a gold tournament in Monroe for Anthony.

The website set up to assist Anthony is www.COTAforAnthonyL.com. The website also has upcoming local events. Anyone interested in donating by mail can send checks to 2501 West Cota Drive, Bloomington, Indiana 47403 with “In Honor of Anthony L” written in the memo line.