Harrison Barnett back at home: Return to Wilson comes a month after kidney transplant

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For the first time in almost four months, the Barnett family slept under the same roof Tuesday night. Harrison Barnett is back home in Wilson.

Tuesday night, the 9-year-old kidney transplant recipient and his mom, Rebecca, packed up Harrison’s things and arrived home around midnight.

His twin sisters, Charlie Kate and Cameron, were still awake and waiting for their brother and mama to get home.

Charlie Kate cried, Barnett said. “But they were happy tears.”

She said the kids ran around the house until around 1 a.m. “They were so wild last night,” she said Wednesday morning. “They hadn’t seen him since Christmas.”

It was a happy moment for Rebecca and Charlie Barnett. No video and only one quick photo. “Just the memories,” she said.

Harrison has done well since his Jan. 26 transplant. He still needs some medical care, but the plan is to be based at home.

Twice a week, Harrison will need to be at UNC Health Care in Chapel Hill for clinical visits or chemotherapy; home health nurses will also draw lab work at home.

“And his mama is going to be his teacher,” she said. We are trying to make this work from home.”

Barnett said she and her husband were ready to be home.

“We didn’t go through all of this to be scared to bring him home,” Barnett said.

Harrison knows his limitations for now, including no trips to his favorite store, Target, and no visits to friends’ houses. He can also have no visitors for now.

When he found out he was coming home, Harrison was so excited, his mom said. To celebrate, he was allowed to walk to Starbucks at the hospital. It was his first trip to Starbucks in months.

Before he left the room, he picked up some Starbucks gift cards that had been given to him, took orders from his longtime nurses and treated them.

Harrison was born with kidneys that were too small to work correctly and had a kidney transplant at age 2 that failed. Doctors fought so hard to save that donated kidney that his body developed a large number of antibodies to fight human tissue. Those antibodies caused the problem finding a viable kidney for Harrison, who traveled to Chapel Hill three times a week for years to receive dialysis.

Over the years, Harrison has been hospitalized often for complications and infections. He lost his hearing three years ago as a side effect of an antibiotic he needed to fight an infection in his dialysis port. He can hear thanks to a cochlear implant.

Harrison was admitted to the hospital at the beginning of November to start a desensitization process to prepare his body to accept a donor kidney. The process included chemotherapy and plasmapheresis. The goal was to remove antibodies from his blood that made it almost impossible for him to match a donor.

Harrison’s kidney donor was Alison Kennedy, whose son is a classmate of Harrison’s at Wilson Christian Academy.

Over the years, the Wilson community has pitched in to help the family financially and emotionally. These last several months, supporters flooded Harrison with greeting cards and small gifts. The family has said how grateful they are for the community support.