It was a typical February day when Katie Sexton's five-year-old son, John, woke up feeling ill.
However, that day would change the family's life forever.
Sexton, a nurse and lifelong Madison County resident, thought a virus or ulcerative colitis was the cause of her son's illness.
It turned out to be something much more severe.
His family took John to the University of Kentucky hospital after he could not take anything without vomiting or running to the restroom.
After numerous tests and three days in the hospital, the results came back and showed John had E. coli.
However, that was not the end of his sickness.
The family soon learned the E. coli had progressed into something more.
John had Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, a disease caused by certain strands of E. coli which attacks the blood and blood vessels. The disease ultimately damaged John's kidneys. He was sent to the ICU, where he received dialysis treatments.
However, the syndrome did not only affect the John's kidneys -- it also gave him some neurological complications and cardiac issues.
John Sexton spent four weeks at UK Hospital. He was then transferred to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital, where he stayed for two more weeks.
Doctors performed a biopsy and discovered that, without dialysis, John's kidneys weren't able to do their job because the particular part of John's kidney, which was damaged and scarred, cannot heal itself.
"It was then that we realized he was going to need long-term treatment," Sexton said.
For now, John is at home and getting dialysis treatments every day. The family is stuck in a waiting period.
The Sextons are waiting for the three months to be up for insurance to approve testing to see what type of markers John's body has to find him a new kidney.
However, once a match for a kidney donor can be found -- the waiting is still not over.
"From finding a match to the operation room, I was told it would probably take about 12 months," Sexton said.
In many ways, Sexton said she is lucky to be a nurse in this kind of situation.
Being at home has allowed John to focus on recovering.
"In the past week, he has really started to get his energy back and be the little boy he used to be," Sexton said. "He was so very sick and so very exhausted."
But, in other ways, being a nurse in no way prepared her to experience this within her own family.
"Whenever it's your kid, everything just kind of changes," Sexton said.
This is why she's so thankful to have various support systems in her life. Her husband, Joe Sexton, and her seven-year-old daughter Roma are the closest support systems she has. But, she said, there are many more.
One person who has become a "great support person" is a friend of Sexton's whose daughter had the same illness last spring and recovered. The community, as a whole, has also shown great support to the family during their time of need.
"We are grateful and amazed by all the support the community has shown us during John's illness," Sexton said. "We can't begin to thank our friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, the schools, and our church. We have been blown away by the support and concern from people we don't even know and from churches, we've never attended, all because they heard John's story and they cared. They wanted to help."
Once the family has a transplant match, the fight won't seem so hard. However, the battle won't be over. Sexton explained a transplant is not a cure for this disease.
There is no cure -- only treatment options.
Sexton said a kidney transplant only lasts for 15 years, and then another transplant will be needed. This means, around the time John turns 20, he will once again need a kidney transplant.
"This was a tragic thing that happened to us," Sexton said. "And it could happen to anyone. It's kind of cliché to say, but don't take today for granted. Because you don't know what will happen tomorrow."
Despite the surreality of watching her son go through this ordeal, Sexton said she does have hope.
"We believe in miracles, and we know our God is able," Sexton said. "It's easy to get discouraged, and some days I do, especially since I'm a nurse. When I see his labs or biopsy results. But John is strong, and we know God has always had a special plan for him, and no matter what path this disease takes us, He is with us."
If you would like to help aide John and the Sexton family through this ordeal, Surge! is running a Team John apparel line through their web store. If you would like to purchase something from this line, you can do so on their website - https://www.surgepromotions.com/collections/team-john.
Sexton's husband, Joe, as well as family friends have organized a silent auction to be held on June 5. The Pancake Breakfast and Silent Auction to benefit John will be from 8 a.m. to noon at the Lexington Fire Department FOF Lodge.
The family also has a GoFundMe page setup which can be seen here- https://www.gofundme.com/f/23pq5t?utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link_all&utm_source=customer.
"Thank you to everyone who has prayed for us," Sexton said. "We will never be able to thank everyone enough; their encouragement helped make this journey a little easier for our family. If anything, I hope his story can remind everyone that life is fragile and precious. We aren't guaranteed tomorrow; our life can change in an instant. Renal disease doesn't care if you are five or 55 years old. Hopefully, his story can help raise awareness about Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome and renal disease in general. And one day, we hope a cure is discovered."