Living Kidney Donor
“It was a no-brainer.”
Michael Cervantes’ brother John suffered kidney problems from an early age, including surgery at age 14 for bilateral kidney stone removal. “I was a junior in high school, not yet 16,” recalled Michael. “Leaning over his hospital bed, I had an overwhelming sense of helplessness and a sense of responsibility as his older brother. I would have gladly traded places with him.”
It was clear a kidney transplant might be needed at some point in the future, and even as a teenager Michael was certain that when that time came he would be John’s donor. “It was a no-brainer,” said Michael.
In 1992, it seemed Michael’s turn had come when John’s condition deteriorated. “We trusted and believed that God would intervene on John’s behalf to help him,” said Michael.
Miraculously though John’s condition improved to the point he didn’t need dialysis, let alone a transplant. “We were overjoyed, but we also knew that it might not be permanent. We accepted whatever time we were blessed with.”
In 2009, after a bad infection led to a dramatic drop in kidney function, John went on dialysis. In November 2011, Michael’s living donation journey began. While John’s wife and son both offered to donate a kidney, Michael ended up being a match. However, John suffered some complications, so the surgery was put on hold for a year. Michael spent that year focusing on his own health by exercising and eating right. “I wanted to make sure my kidney was the best possible I had to offer.”
On March 11, 2013, Michael donated his kidney to his brother and both were released three days later. At first, John went to his own home, but then his water heater malfunctioned and flooded parts of the house, which raised concerns about mold. John’s doctors and nurses told him mold could endanger his recovery, so he moved in with Michael. The Cervantes brothers happily recovered together for the next two weeks, sharing every meal and taking post-meal walks.
Michael’s gift of a kidney made a world of difference to John, who is back to work as a 17-year veteran police officer, currently with the police department in the brothers’ hometown of Chino. Michael, who coordinates academic assistance and enrichment programs at Whittier High School, was back to work just eight weeks after donating his kidney.
Michael and John, both husbands and fathers, say the experience brought them and their families closer together than ever before.
To anyone considering being a living kidney donor, Michael says, “Do it. For some reason we have two kidneys but we can live with one…if somebody else can benefit from the spare kidney we have, give it up and make a difference to somebody else.”