Policeman by trade, hero by nature

by Hannah PickettStaff Writer

In the fall of 2007, Travis Hamilton began his senior year of undergraduate studies at Simpson College juggling many roles: student, full time police officer, husband and expectant father.

In October of his senior year, Hamilton and his wife welcomed their first son, Trae, into the world. When Trae was born, doctors noticed complications right away and he spent one week in the intensive care unit being probed and prodded by specialists.

“As a first-time parent, the whole situation was freaky, scary and extremely overwhelming,” Hamilton said.

Testing led doctors to detect a rare kidney syndrome, caused by a mutation in a gene, in the newborn. Without the doctors detecting the mutation, cancerous tumors would start growing on Trae’s kidneys, ultimately causing kidney failure.

“If cancerous tumors would have formed on the kidneys, he would have had to go through dialysis and chemotherapy,” Hamilton said. “That’s really hard on adults, but for someone Trae’s age and size, it would be even worse.”

There have only been 300-400 cases of the kidney syndrome, so Blank Children’s Hospital referred the Hamilton’s to the University of Iowa Hospitals where a doctor had handled a case of the syndrome.

Trae was six months old when he started going to Iowa City.

“The doctors in Iowa City came up with a plan, put us on the fast track,” Hamilton said. “They told us the tumors start to grow between birth and two years, so Trae needed a kidney transplant as soon as possible, before he was 18 months old.”

The search was on for a kidney donor. After rigorous testing of blood matching and tissue typing, coupled with a complete overall physical, doctors determined that Hamilton was a match to donate.

Late last March, when Trae was 17 months old, Hamilton donated his kidney. The transplant was a success despite the 20 percent chance Trae’s body would reject the kidney.

“The thing I most look forward to is the pleasure of being able to tell my son the whole story when he’s old enough to understand,” Hamilton said. “I look forward to being able to tell him about the bond we have because of it, and I hope that bond just gets stronger.”

Trae just celebrated his second birthday Oct. 18 and is a bouncing toddler. He is doing well despite a few minor setbacks. He takes daily medication to suppress his immune system so his body won’t reject the kidney, and that will be a lifelong process for him. Because the medication lowers his immune system, the Hamilton’s have to take lots of precautions to keep him healthy.

“A cold usually puts him in the hospital,” Hamilton said.

Trae was hospitalized for 18 days in August due to a virus, which caused Hamilton, now a graduate student in the Criminal Justice department, to withdraw from the first set of classes.

However, Hamilton is back in the master’s program, juggling his duties as a Johnston patrol officer, husband and father while earning up a higher degree in Simpson’s newest graduate program.

“I hope (the Criminal Justice Master’s degree) opens doors for advancements for me,” Hamilton said. “I hope one day it will help lead to me being a chief of police.”

The master’s program in Criminal Justice is new to the graduate program this year and has been years in the making.

“Our alums have asked about the possibility of starting a master’s program at Simpson for years,” Fred Jones, director of criminal justice education, said. “Our first cohort of 19 students has six criminal justice professionals who earned their B.A. in Criminal Justice from Simpson. This is a world that increasingly demands credentialing for career advancement. The MACJ is an important credential for criminal justice system professionals.”