Family stays upbeat despite multiple medical problems

Aug 31 2011 - 7:05am

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Courtesy photo
From left to right, Jaxon Norman, Nicholas Norman, Nathan Norman and McKenzie Norman. Despite all four children facing serious medical concerns, the family remains optimistic.
Courtesy photo
From left to right, Jaxon Norman, Nicholas Norman, Nathan Norman and McKenzie Norman. Despite all four children facing serious medical concerns, the family remains optimistic.

SMITHFIELD -- Jeff Norman laughs when he suggests that his family sounds like a soap opera. But instead of complaining about the medical issues that have come in handfuls at a time, the Normans just accept those trials as part of life and look for the good in the difficult experiences.

"We just feel everyone gets picked on, so there's no reason to get mad," Norman said. "There's no sense in feeling sorry for yourself."

But many would argue that the Norman family has been picked on worse than others.

The latest trial alone is enough to make a family wonder if their burdens are too great.

Nineteen-year-old Nathan Norman, who grew up in West Point, was recently diagnosed with a kidney illness and had a successful kidney transplant Tuesday.

The family recently moved to Smithfield.

The out-of-pocket cost for the procedure is close to $80,000, and Nathan will need medication, costing $4,300 a month, for a while to make sure his body doesn't reject the new kidney.

"I'm hoping I'll wean down to just a couple (medications) pretty quickly, and they'll be the cheap ones," said Nathan, who graduated from Syracuse High School in 2010.

The family recently moved to Smithfield. Family members have planned a fundraiser for Sept. 10 at the Courtyard Marriott in Layton. A silent auction will start at 5:30 p.m. and entertainment begins at 7 p.m.

A year ago, Nathan was the typical college student. Looking for a little extra money, he and some friends decide to donate plasma. Nathan was turned away twice, though, because tests showed there was too much protein in his urine. That's when Nathan's parents had him undergo tests that eventually revealed that Nathan has focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS).

Jeff, 47, has the same kidney illness as Nathan; however, Nathan felt the effects a lot more quickly.

"He came into my office one day, and he looked like a zombie," Jeff Norman said.

The family quickly found a donor for Nathan. Gordon Flygare, Nathan's uncle, who lives in Bountiful, was the first to be tested and was a perfect match.

Meanwhile, Jeff Norman is on the list to receive a kidney, but he has instructed those with the list to not call him yet. Not until he really feels that he needs a new kidney.

"I feel like even though I only have 15 to 20 percent function of my kidneys, I function well," Jeff Norman said. "I'm able to work full time, I'm able to take care of myself."

This is not the first time Jeff and his wife, Carrie, have watched as a child dealt with bad health.

Nicholas, their 23-year-old son, was diagnosed with cancer two years ago when he returned from his LDS mission in Ukraine. Now, after having had successful surgery, he is doing well.

Their third son, Jaxon, who turned 15 on Saturday, will soon be tested to see if he has a small hole in his heart. Several other non-immediate family members have had surgery to repair the genetic disease.

McKenzie, the Norman's 13-year-old daughter, had a seizure disorder when she was younger. The seizures eventually stopped, but started again when she was 12. Jeff said now it has been a year-and-a-half since McKenzie had her last seizure.

"There are a lot of people worse off," Nathan Norman said. "We've been taken care of, and I wouldn't trade any of it away. I'm really grateful for our experiences and the people who have been there for us."

That type of attitude is why others look at Nathan as an inspiration. Even when he realized he would have to postpone going on an LDS mission, his attitude never soured.

"He is such a good-hearted kid, a hard-worker and is very likeable," said Lisa Morris, Nathan's aunt. "He's just got such a good attitude. We were upset, but he just said that it could be so much worse."

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