8-year-old shares his story hoping to encourage others to save lives


INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - One of the cutest boys I've ever met with one of the biggest left dimples is not shy about speaking his mind.

"What's that there?" Layden Mertens asks me.

"Oh it's just a ring and another little ring," I reply.

He then asks, "Are you married?"

You could say he has just the right personality to handle life's challenges.

The smart and funny 8-year-old loves to dance and he's really celebrating now.

"I did have a bad kidney and now I have a new one. I have two now," he says.

After a year on the transplant list Layden received his new kidney a few weeks ago. He still has to take a few precautions.

Layden says, "It's a mask that you wear on your face. If you get hooked up you wear it. If you change your dressing your wear it. And if somebody's sick you wear it."

He's one of the almost 10,000 Hoosiers who were on dialysis in 2016.

And almost 2500 Hoosiers were diagnosed with renal disease last year.

Joy has had kidney disease since 10 years-old.

Now at 29 she just had her second transplant.

"I was doing dialysis for over 12-hours a day and just to be done with that is really a blessing," says Joy Araujo who is a National Kidney Foundation of Indiana volunteer.

She and Layden are asking for you to give to the foundation.

"You can help people when they need help," says Layden.

It supports kidney patients and their families with screenings and other services like Kidney Camp.

Layden says, "Because that would help me and the kids that go there. I get to rock climb and zip line."

He can do all of those things and more now that's he's been blessed with a kidney. His mother will never forget the moment when they got the call.

"I thought it was a joke. I kept asking, 'Are you serious? Are you joking. Are you joking?' And I just started balling," says April Sweet.

Layden's transplant was at Riley Hospital for Children where he's formed a special bond with his nurse Suzi.

"She helps me. She's pretty," he says.

Sweet says, "She done a lot for us. She's like my second mom,"

Sweet begins to cry and Layden comforts her.

He asks his mother, "Are you crying?"

She says, "They're happy tears. Suzi taught us so much."

Layden and Joy's message is to never give up hope.

Araujo says, "Just stay the course. Your time will come providing that more people donate and we get the word out there about how important organ donation is."

Layden says thanks to the generous gift of life he gets to keep on dancing!

I ask Layden, "Are you happy?"

With a very big smile and one of the biggest dimples on his left cheek he replies, "Oh, yeah!"

There are still tickets available for the October 7, 2017 "Celebrating Life Under the Stars" Gala. The fundraiser is at the Indiana Roof Ballroom including live and silent auctions, dinner and dancing.

For more information: www.kidneyindiana.org

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