I was born to and grew up in a typical family, with brothers and both parents. The story of my life was not much different from my friends’ stories growing up. I made mistakes, like all people, but I learned many things from those mistakes, along with the normal punches that life throws at you.
However, an unfortunate event led me to make some bad decisions. Everything started the day when I began to feel like I was losing my sanity. They gave me a tranquilizer that made me sleep for 10 hours. The next day, I made an appointment with a psychiatrist in Houston, which I attended with my father. After that, everything changed drastically. The appointment went normally until I was asked to do a full blood workup. A blood analysis was needed to check which medicines I was taking before doing a cleanse of those medicines and a change of treatment. When the doctor got my results back, he asked for permission to speak one-on-one with my father. I was very anxious while the father spoke with the doctor, and, when my father came out of the office and walked over to me I could see the worry written on his face as well.
The doctor told me: “I have seen your hematology report and we believe that you have a kidney condition. I will send you to a nephrologist at the Methodist hospital.” This was in March 2010. They referred me to Dr. Oliveros and he asked me for two ultrasounds of the kidneys. After studying them he told me, “If you don’t do a kidney transplant in the next year, you’re going to die!”
This news was hard to bear for me. In January of 2010, I had completed the Disney Marathon, all 42 kilometers; clearly I was in very good health.
However, we have a family history of transplants, and I was not one of our lucky members. My uncle, Fernando Paiz, recovered successfully from a liver transplant but my uncle Luis Paiz died during his own liver transplant operation.
I didn’t know what to do! I left Dr. Oliveros’ clinic and found my father alone in the waiting room. I saw him and felt so stressed…I was so changed by the news that I sat down and thought, “my life is running out.”
My father, brother and I went back to the doctor later to get more information. He clarified what he’d told me and we decided to get a second opinion, for which we went to our family hospital, Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans. My family is registered in and well known in this hospital, for which I consider myself a very fortunate person.
At the time of my diagnosis, I was 30 years old. Because I believed I was a kind of Superman, I didn’t even have health insurance that would cover me. All of my treatments would have to be paid by my father. We arrived at the hospital in New Orleans and found out that our usual doctor was absent. We had to wait, but fortunately Dr. Raju came back that same night.
The doctor, in place of asking for another ultrasound, required a CT scan, which is a more exact kind of test for this type of case. But, the result was the same: I NEEDED A KIDNEY TRANSPLANT. With the test, the doctor confirmed the diagnosis and at once put us on the waiting list for a kidney transplant in the region. In the United States, patients needing transplants are put on waiting lists depending on the geographical region in which they’re treated. Already on the list, I went back to Guatemala and waited to be called.
Back in Guatemala, I found myself without a job and without anyone by my side. I counted up all the times that I’d made bad decisions and the news that I needed a transplant made everything worse. I’ve always been someone with little patience and a quick temper, so I decided to talk to my father. I felt attacked by life: I felt that my options had run out. Life was losing its meaning…I was losing everything. I grabbed my cell phone and began to write to my brothers and father…I was writing goodbye messages.
My brother Mario called my psychiatrist, who later became my Life Coach. Because I needed help to put my life in order, my family sent me to the Menninger psychiatric clinic. They confined me to one place, with very limited personal space, and I spent 10 weeks there.
The way the Menninger clinic works is that they do an evaluation of an incoming patient, and depending on your personal profile, refer you to treatment. They sent me to PIC (Professionals in Crisis). Truly, YOU ARE NEVER PREPARED TO COME TO A PLACE LIKE THIS. Nevertheless, I made some very good friends. In this place, there is primarily group therapy; we all told our own stories. You might think that you are having it bad, but when you learn that everyone is experiencing the same sorts of crises, you don’t feel quite so strange. I came back to Guatemala after 10 weeks, and felt very calm and stable. That was at the end of 2010.
When you find yourself on the waiting list for a transplant and there’s a donor, this is what happens: they always call two people on the list who have the same blood type. If it is compatible with the kidney, they’ll give it to the person who is highest on the list, but it could be that for reasons of antibodies (which change from day to day) you won’t be completely compatible. So, then the kidney will go to the second candidate from the list. One day, the staff at Tulane called me: they needed me to get there immediately. However, because airline tickets were sold out at such short notice, the only thing my family could do was to charter a private plane. I had the chance at live and I couldn’t waste it! It takes about two weeks for planes that aren’t registered in America but are going into the United States to get permission for arrival, but I didn’t have those two weeks. My father and I went. After several tests, the first person on the list got the kidney. I had to go back and wait to be the next transplantee.
I hadn’t thought about going back to work, but an important auditing and consulting organization soon contacted me and after that I began a contract with a new company. I was very fatigued; one of the symptoms of this disease is that you tire often and easily. I worked very hard in short shifts, but by midday I was worn out. I lived very near my work, and so I could take advantage of my lunch hour to sleep. My job performance suffered, and eventually fatigue caused me to lose my job.
On August 3, 2011, the hospital called again and, again, I was second on the list. I went to Tulane on an itinerary that was better planned than before. As soon as I arrived I underwent a hemodialysis (I only had to take this treatment twice, ever). I had very high levels of potassium, which potentially could cause me to have a heart attack in the operating room. After four hours of hemodialysis to prepare me in case the transplant would be mine, it turned out that I would have to go back to waiting.
I was already very scared of the hemodialysis, because after you begin it, you can’t stop. The risks grow, fear grows, and the procedure is harder each and every time. Hemodialysis requires two machines. My father had bought me both machines for my own treatment, but I was still frightened. This was one of the hardest things to deal with for me, and one of the topics I discussed most with my psychiatrist. He recommended that I give names to the machines as a step toward accepting them. I called the small one R2-D2 and the big one, C-3PO. The doctors made me do hemodialysis every day, which I could distribute over 12 hours over the course of the week.
Hemodialysis, if you don’t do it carefully, can severely damage the vein, and leave ugly scars and marks. After my first hemodialysis, at 4 a.m., I got the news: THE KIDNEY WAS MINE! For a moment I felt relief and hope, but then I realized that there were still a lot of things that could happen.
I called my family and told them I would have the operation. So, two of my three brothers and my father left to come to New Orleans. Finally, I entered the operating room. I was the first patient that they treated with Super Glue (they didn’t give me stitches or staples); this would mean that my wound would be smaller and scar less. On August 4, 2011, I underwent a successful kidney transplant. Then I had to do one final hemodialysis. Nevertheless, one of the most amazing things is that I never had symptoms of my disease, other than the taste of ammonia in my mouth.
I have been many things, including an athlete and an Electrical Engineering student, with a master’s degree from the University of Idaho and an MBA from the Instituto Empresa in Spain. I never had symptoms of my disease. I was a daring kid: I always played in the most extreme ways I could think of. (One time, I was riding my bike, and fainted because I had been spinning around on it so much; another time I threw myself into the swimming pool and lost part of a tooth.) Although I was a strong boy, an active teenager and an adult who sometimes thought he was Superman, I went through some hard times for my family and me. Despite all of this, the thing that DIDN’T make me different from anyone else was needing a kidney transplant. My kidney disease didn’t have anything to do with the way I had lived my life, but it would surely change my future forever.
My life has taken me this far. I know every step of this process and its daily problems. I never stop giving myself goals, even though I have already achieved many things and I have much to be thankful for. I know that not everyone is as lucky as I am, and I can only imagine how people who are less fortunate than me would feel in the same situations. This is why I am here, and this is why I want to help as much as I can. I have had a transplanted kidney for two years and I continue to live my life to its fullest. It hasn’t stopped me thus far, and it won’t. I invite you all to explore this website and to support my cause.