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Monday, July 15, 2024

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A Christmas Miracle Named ‘Ducky’

Khloe Sudol nuzzles with Ducky

By Christopher South

UPPER TOWNSHIP – Khloe Sudol, 12, got a lot of media attention three years ago when she was on a list for a new kidney. Today, she still faces an uphill battle, but she will be riding into battle on her new horse, Ducky.
Khloe is now a 7th grader at Upper Township Middle School. Three years ago, she got sick for a week, and after multiple doctors’ visits, she ended up in the emergency room at the Shore Memorial Medical Center before being send to St. Christopher’s Hospital in Philadelphia. There, they determined that her kidneys had failed, and she was put on emergency dialysis.
“She was diagnosed with an ultra-rare blood disease – aHUS,” her mother, Heather Sudol said, referring to atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome.
Khloe was put on peritoneal dialysis, which is a means of removing toxins from the system of someone with kidney failure.
This began a three-year process of nighttime dialysis, with her mother hooking her up at night, rubbing her back as the discomfort of dialysis set in, and taking her off in the morning. In addition, every eight weeks she would have to go to St. Christopher’s to get a chemical infusion.
“We had been through this for three years not expecting any kidney function to come back,” Heather said. “She had a biopsy three years ago that showed complete kidney damage.”
So, since the age of 9, when it all started, until now dealing with aHUS has been a battle for Khloe and her family, but as her mother said, Khloe is strong and takes it all day by day. 
Then on Nov. 15, the family got a call at 1 a.m. telling them to get to the hospital as soon as possible because they had a kidney for Khloe. Her parents ran around getting her unhooked from the dialysis equipment and getting ready to leave, arriving at the hospital by 3:30 a.m. Khloe was in surgery at 10 a.m. and her parents did not see her again until eight hours later when the surgery was determined to be a success. However, the new kidney failed over the next 12 hours and doctors removed the transplanted kidney.
Heather Sudol took to Facebook and put the word out about Khloe’s condition, and she requested prayers.
“We had a lot of people praying, had prayer chains all over the country – she touched so many hearts and lives,” Heather said, “so many community members, family and friends.”
Khloe, who had become very interested in horses, had made out her Christmas list for this year, and at the top was a new saddle. She went online and found the least expensive saddle she could find and put it on her list.
A local man named Nick Bricker became aware of Khloe’s condition and her wish for a new, English-style saddle. Heather Sudol described him as one who has done a lot for the community, doing fundraising through businesses, and he went into the community and asked for support for getting Khloe the number one item on her Christmas list. The response was overwhelming.
“He wanted to raise funds to buy her a really nice saddle,” Heather said. “They raised so much money that they purchased a horse for her.”
Khloe had been riding under the instruction of Kaitlyn Vogelei at Lennox Acres in Woodbine. She had been riding a horse named, “Charming.” Bricker was familiar with Khloe’s situation from Heather’s postings on Facebook. He had started a page named Upper Township & Surrounding Area Local Support Page to help businesses during the Covid pandemic 
“It just morphed into a pretty big thing,” he said. “It has raised almost $200,000 for our community.”
Bricker said his son, Ryland, who is in Khloe’s grade, does fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and many of the local businesses support him through Facebook. Bricker said as he learned about local families that needed help, they would do what they could. When he heard about Khloe a couple years ago they decided to help with travel expenses for hospital visits in Philadelphia. He said he was always getting updates on Khloe’s condition, and when he heard she was going to get a transplant, he thought she wouldn’t have to go through all the hospital visits and dialysis. 
“I put out on Facebook, what about getting something that will knock Khloe’s socks off?” Bricker said. 
He knew she was into horses and thought maybe about getting her a saddle. He said he had no idea how much saddles cost, and was a little surprised, but he talked to someone who talked to someone else and soon he had what he called the perfect storm of people working on getting a special gift for Khloe. 
“The money just kept coming in and I thought what if we can buy her a horse?” he said.
Bricker learned that a horse could cost about $30,000 because his friend just bought a horse for that amount. He had been talking to Khloe’s riding instructor about a long-term lease on a horse, when he said, “Would you consider splitting the horse with her?” 
“She said that is actually the perfect thing, because she is only 12 and owning a horse is a bit much,” Bricker said.  
Bricker said they were able to get Khloe half ownership in Ducky the horse, a saddle, new riding gear, a helmet, and they paid her trainer for year and a half upkeep for the horse.
Khloe just met Ducky, Nov. 25. She said she always wanted to be surprised with a horse with a bow on it, rather than just being told. She said she was presented the horse this way, with all her family there. Khloe said she couldn’t find words to say when she learned Ducky would be hers. 
“I love him, obviously,” Khloe said.
“Riding for Khloe is her therapy, her happy place, and it got her through the last three years,” Heather said. 
Along with Ducky, Khloe was the recipient of another miracle in the last two weeks. 
“We found out her own kidneys were functioning enough that she doesn’t have to go back on dialysis,” Heather said. “She said, ‘Mom, I don’t need you anymore (to hook her up and take vitals). I can feel normal like my friends.’ That’s all she ever wanted to be – like everyone else.”
Heather Sudol said Khloe will be able to see and ride Ducky four times a week.

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