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How to save a life

Noah James is a spirited 22-month-old toddler who loves playing outdoors, feeding the fish, chasing lizards and chickens, and swimming. He rides with his grandpa on a tractor and enjoys reading books at bedtime with his mom. But unlike most boys his age, Noah is fighting for his life.

Born March 29, 2014, to Jenny James, Noah has been diagnosed with end-stage kidney disease. The doctors at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland recommended a lifesaving kidney transplant.

Noah’s future could include a transplant within a year and a lifetime of immunosuppressive drugs, along with another transplant by the time he is 20.

While the community rallies around Noah, his best support is his mother, Jenny, who will donate one of her kidneys to her son.

“Ever since I’ve known Jenny, she wanted to be a mother,” says Hillary Marshall, Jenny’s friend and community coordinator of a campaign for Noah through the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA).

COTA is a national nonprofit started in 1986 that has helped raise millions of dollars for children and young adults who need organ, bone marrow or stem cell transplants. COTA provides services at no cost to the families, and 100 percent of the money raised in honor of a patient are used for transplant-related expenses.

“Jenny found COTA online, applied and was accepted. Noah will always be a COTA kid and have lifetime coverage before, during and after his campaign,” explains Marshall. “When Jenny asked me to be the community coordinator for Noah’s campaign, I said yes. I promised I would do my best for them.”

Along with regular toddler activities such as nap time, bath time and playing with his dog, Kuma, Noah is fed through a gastrostomy tube (G-tube) four times a day. The tube attaches directly to his stomach through a MIC-KEY button. Each feeding takes 90 minutes, except for the evening feed, which lasts all night, about nine hours.

“Noah is a curious, happy boy,” says Marshall. “He doesn’t look sick until you watch him eat through the G-tube.”

Marshall and a handful of volunteers are planning a local benefit to raise money for Noah’s transplant-related expenses. The event will be held at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 12 at Jacksonville Presbyterian Church, 425 Middle St. The goal is to raise $200,000 for Noah’s care. His COTA campaign began in July 2015, and the community has so far raised almost $50,000.

The community coordinator for Noah’s campaign, Marshall gladly jumped in to help her friend in her time of need.

“I received training from COTA on how to fundraise and the process as a whole,” says Marshall. “I needed to set up venues, publicize events and find volunteers. I recruited a couple of my friends to build the website and help with graphic design.”

“Meri Haworth has been a huge help in planning the fundraiser in Jacksonville,” says Marshall.

Haworth has played a pivotal role in gathering volunteers, planning, preparing materials and spreading the word about Noah’s cause. “I’m an organizer,” says Haworth, whose husband, Bob Haworth, a former member of the Kingston Trio for 20 years, will provide entertainment for the fundraiser.

“The James family are parishioners at our church,” says Meri Haworth. “They attended one of Bob’s shows in December. I met Noah that night and fell in love with this darling little boy.”

“I thought the family must have so many expenses. My brother had leukemia, and I know the type of expenses involved with long-term care. I thought these folks could use help with extra gas money and things like that,” explains Meri Haworth. “I discussed it with Jenny, and she gave me COTA’s information. Everyone at church loved the idea. I started gathering volunteers and organizing the event.”

Bob Haworth will provide musical entertainment for the event, but he will also tell about a harrowing ordeal he experienced at sea, in which he spent three weeks stuck on the water with two friends. His talk will be accompanied by photos and video.

“Every day was a question mark,” he says.

Bob Haworth will recount his story by popular demand, but that’s not the only reason.

“It’s a compelling story because it made me realize how powerful prayer can be. Prayer can get us through events that are troublesome,” he explains. “There was a time when I was at sea I knew the church and community were reaching out to me.”

He survived and is able to tell his tale, but Noah’s story is only beginning. He, like Bob, must trust in the support of the community.

“I don’t know how as a town, especially as a church, we’d survive if Noah didn’t make it. It would be extremely hard,” says Meri Haworth.

Donations for Noah's medical care can be made online at www.cotafornoahj.com

Reach newsroom assistant Rebecca Scott at 541-776-4477 or by email at rscott@mailtribune.com.

Local residents are banding behind Noah James, a 22-month-old boy in need of a kidney transplant. Courtesy photo
Local residents are banding behind Noah James, a 22-month-old boy in need of a kidney transplant. Courtesy photo