VICTOR, ID — Raith Wehner is a 13-year-old boy who loves being outside, playing sports, and riding bikes. In the winter, he snowboards, as do many local kids. He just finished 8th grade at the Journeys School in Jackson.
But a pair of rare, life-threating diseases threw his life off course. Wehner is waiting patiently for a life-saving kidney transplant, and his communities in Jackson and Teton Valley are rallying behind him.
It started with joint paint in 2017. The pain was sporadic but crippling. Finally, after a trip to the ER and an overnight stay in the Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Wehner was diagnosed with Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (GPA), formerly known as Wegener’s Disease, in May of 2018. The rare disease causes inflammation in blood vessels throughout the body, particularly in the respiratory tract and kidneys. While being treated for GPA, Wehner found himself back in the Primary Children’s Hospital with Stage 5 renal failure and permanent damage to his kidneys.
Then there was another blow: doctors discovered a second, even rarer disease. Atypical Hemolytic Uremia Syndrome (AHUS) causes an excess of blood clots in the blood vessels, which block regular blood flow to the kidneys. The lack of blood flow ultimately caused Wehner’s kidneys to fail. His hope right now is a kidney transplant.
Wehner is now on dialysis three days a week in Idaho Falls while he awaits a new kidney. The transplant is not a cure, but will allow Wehner to live a semblance of a normal life again.
A transplant costs anywhere from $100,000 to more than $800,000. Once it’s over, families still face a mountain of transplant-related expenses. Wehner will spend two-three months in Salt Lake City recovering after the surgery.
Wehner’s family has partnered with the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA), a national nonprofit that helps families raise funds for an entire lifetime of transplant-related expenses. The Wehners are hoping to raise $100,000 for COTA in honor of their boy.
Wehner’s community is already rallying behind him.
“The Journeys School students and parents wanted to help Raith and his family in any way we could,” said Journeys School parent Coleen Regan. “Some of Raith and Chloe’s friends got together and brainstormed different ideas to help raise money for COTA. They decided to take coin donation boxes to their summer jobs at Jackson businesses. The local support has been wonderful and the kids are excited to help their friend in his time of need.”
But Wehner will need all the help he can get. On September 14, friends and family are hosting a Tee-Off for Transplant golf tournament and community barbecue at The Links at Teton Peaks. Golfers and non-golfers are invited. You can register here.
You can also make a one-time or recurring gift at COTAforTeamRaith.com
Coin boxes are placed in the following locations:
High Country Outfitters
Jackson Hole’s Old Time Photos
Moo’s Ice Cream
In Victor/ Driggs
Victor Station – Sinclair
Barrels & Bins
Rainey Creek – Exxon in Swan Valley
Long Horn Corral
The Grand View General Store – Tetonia
11775 S HIGHWAY 89 Jackson
8840 TIMBER LN Jackson
167 W CENTER STREET Victor
549 COULTER AVE Jackson
12415 S SHEEP HORN RD Jackson
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