By Tim Harfmann
Working on fractions in his fourth-grade math class, George Kyriakopoulos looks like your typical nine-year-old — but six years ago, he contracted a rare kidney condition. “I felt different because everyone else got to play sports. Everyone else got to go to school. I wasn’t able to do any of that stuff,” said George.
A student at Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic Academy in Astoria, George was diagnosed with Childhood Nephrotic Syndrome at the age of three — a disorder where the body releases too much protein. “We thought it was just allergies. He started gaining a lot of weight on his face, and it was just so rapid,” said Maria Kyriakopoulos, George’s mom.
Even with daily medication and regular doctor visits, George relapsed several times over three years, scaring George’s oldest sister, Natalia; “I was sad, especially as an older sister, that he wasn’t able to have these childhood experiences like other children.”
To help raise awareness, Natalia, a graduate of the catholic academy, and George’s other older sister Isabella, a seventh grader at Saint Francis of Assisi, led a donation drive at the school. Catholic Academy students wore green — the color associated with kidney disorders — and raised over $1,200.
Luckily, George has been in remission for the last three years. He is enjoying school again, even placing third in last year’s diocesan-wide math bee. And he’s playing sports again, too, like flag football. Through relapses and remissions, the Kyriakopoulos family has had faith. “When you pray, you get better,” said George. “We’re so thankful,” said Maria, “After every test that he takes, whether it’s high or low, I say, ‘George, what do we say?’ and he says, ‘thank you God!”
Now, they’re praying hard for a cure, hoping no family will have to go through the same experience.