Two-and-a-half-year-old Aidan Moles has never ridden in a car. He’s never been inside a grocery store or a day care center, has never heard the sound of a dishwasher or washing machine. He’s never felt the cold air of a January day blow across his face.

Hospital records list his address in Fort Madison, Iowa, but he’s never been inside the house. Or outside it.

Aidan Moles leaving hospitalUntil now.

After 946 days as a patient at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital – a time marked by two birthdays, three Thanksgivings, three Christmases, more than 70 COVID-19 tests, 16 operating room visits, 306 radiologic procedures, and, finally, a life-saving kidney transplant – Aidan got to go home on Feb. 5, 2021.

“I am so excited to see how he reacts to his first car ride, to just getting him home and letting him crawl all over the place, just those little things,” says Aron Donaldson, Aidan’s mom. “I’m excited he just gets to be a kid, you know? Do all those little things. It’s just going to be nice to be able to get off work and come home and see him, just to have him here.”

Aidan was born seven weeks early on July 5, 2018 and weighed 4 pounds, 10 ounces. Neither of his kidneys worked and he was in end-stage renal disease, requiring dialysis at birth. He was also diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension and spent most of his two and a half years on oxygen. He’s fought infections, a heart problem, and some blood issues, until getting a new kidney in November.

That, says Lyndsay Harshman, MD, was Aidan’s turning point.

“There were times we weren’t sure he would make it, to be honest,” says Harshman, the medical director of pediatric kidney transplant at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospitals. “But his new kidney is doing such amazing things for his body that he doesn't have the disturbances in his fluid balance to his body, he's off of his ventilator. He’s going home without dialysis and without a ventilator.”

She’s excited for Aidan and Aron, but says the day is bittersweet.

“Aidan has become a part of our family,” she says. “He’s been a part of this hospital family for two years. It’s going to be hard to come by his room and not see his little face sticking out to see me.”