Science and Innovation

Apopka girl receives the gift of life after kidney transplant at AdventHealth

This Christmas was extra special for 2-year-old Harper Jo Falcon, who was born with a rare genetic condition, but received the ultimate gift late 2020.

Family picture

Harper Jo underwent a kidney transplant in October 2020 at AdventHealth for Children. In 2021, the health care system’s Transplant Institute reached a new record for pediatric cases with three kidney and 12 liver transplants in children.

Today the toddler is chasing after bubbles and taking walks with her parents through their Apopka neighborhood.

“There’s always been a looming cloud, anything can go wrong at any minute and we could never experience these things we’re doing now,” mother Sarah Falcon told Spectrum News 13. “I think that’s why we don’t take anything for granted. We enjoy every moment like we may never get it again.”

Sarah Falcon and husband Mike learned when she was pregnant that something wasn’t right. Ultrasounds of the baby’s kidneys showed multiple cysts and less than a week after Harper Jo was born her kidneys were removed and she was placed on dialysis.

Harper Jo was diagnosed with Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease, a rare genetic condition that occurs once in every 20,000 live births.

AdventHealth’s medical director of pediatric nephrology, Dr. Deogracias Peña, explained Harper Jo was born with “a very big kidney, it occupied 90 percent of her abdomen.”

After the removal of the kidneys, Harper Jo underwent months of dialysis until she could reach the appropriate weight for a transplant. Eventually, she was placed on a transplant list, and within a month her family was preparing for the life-changing surgery.

Peña said cases like Harper Jo’s are among the most rewarding.

“Everybody is so happy we finally got a kidney for this child. It’s life-saving,” he told Spectrum News 13. “That’s one of the things that is so gratifying about this job. You’re able to help people, especially children, with a lot of things ahead of them.”

Today Harper Jo is a different little girl.

“Now, I’m excited to see at this age, after transplant, to how that difference is,” Mike expressed. “I just want her to grow up happy and healthy, it’s all I want for her.”