On a record-setting day last month at Texas Children’s Hospital, four different people received the life-saving gift of a kidney transplant—four people in the span of just 18 hours.
Carlos Lopez, 29, was one of them.
"Before I got the transplant I was thinking I wasn't going to make it,” he said with tears streaming down his face in an interview one month after his life-saving transplant. “In my mind, I was starting to give up.”
He was starting to give up because he had been on kidney dialysis for 13 years, nearly half his life. And as he sat three days a week, to have his blood spun and cleaned, he watched his older brother Oscar die from the same hereditary kidney disease.
"He didn't make it,” he said of the older brother who returned home to Mexico to receive a kidney transplant because he couldn’t get medical insurance coverage in the United States. “He passed away on Mother’s Day.”
Lopez, who was brought to the U.S. by his parents when he was 5 years old, has spent more than 13 years as a charity patient at Texas Children’s Hospital, meaning his care is funded by the hospital.
"I've been through this dialysis for 13 years, and now I have a chance to have a normal life,” he said, adding he plans to return to his profession as an electrician.
But his chance, on a unique day last month at Texas Children's Hospital, wasn't the only one.
Word came that two donors were available. Carlos would get one kidney and three other patients would get their chances, too. Four kidney transplants all in one very busy surgical day.
The first transplant began at 6 a.m. on Friday, March 11, the second at 8 a.m. and the third and fourth at 3:30 p.m.
The recipients were Carlos, a teenager named Alexis, a 12-year-old and a 4-year-old child.
The last transplant on that Friday also marked the 400th kidney transplant at Texas Children's since the program began in 1988.
"These two donors gave a new outlook on life to four different people,” said Dr. Eileen Brewer, medical director of Renal Transplantation at Texas Children’s. "(Carlos) waited a long time, and now we think he got a good kidney for him and has a really good chance of keeping this for a good long time."
"I got that chance. I got a chance at life again,” Lopez said.
The average wait for a kidney is roughly four years. The supply of donors, living or otherwise, never meets an overwhelming demand. So, you can't blame a man who waited 13 years for crying tears of joy.
"I thank God for that soul that gave me a second chance at life. Up in heaven I pray for him and his family for giving me another chance at life,” Lopez said.
A chance to walk into a future, and a life, he never thought he'd have.
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