It is an organ that provides one of the most basic functions that we need to sustain life. It is one that we often do not think of: The kidneys. The sole purpose of the kidneys is to filter the blood and deposit the toxins and extra waste (urine). We need our kidneys to keep us alive. When your kidneys stop working, toxins build up in your body and, from there on, it is literally a fast waiting game if you do not get help. When your kidneys give out, you are left with the decision of enduring dialysis and/or trying to obtain a transplant. When on dialysis, you are hooked up to a machine that does the work of your kidneys for you. The machine filters your blood and gets rid of the toxins. Ulises Aguirre is a 31 year old man who is going through the struggle of kidney failure. Outside of needing a new kidney, he is an otherwise healthy man. He is on the donors list and has been doing dialysis for four years. He has never abused drugs and is a selfless individual. He just needs a little bit of help. Here is his story.
How did it happen? What happened on the day that you got sick?
This happened on 12/24/12. I can recall it was a Saturday morning I woke up with chest pain, having trouble breathing, tired, not wanting to eat or see/hear anyone. I was taken to Chandler Memorial Hospital (In Chandler, AZ). While I was in the waiting room, I can recall looking down at my finger tips as they started to change into a blueish-purple color. I heard a nurse yell out “we have a code blue” (it means the person is dying) I blacked out and woke up about 5 hours later next to a dialysis machine with a catheter in my chest. When the nephrologist walked in, he asked that how long have those symptoms have been going on. I replied with “about 2wks” he went on to tell me that if I would have waited to go to the hospital I would have been dead the next day. He went on to explain to me that the only way I was going to stay alive was to be on dialysis and to get a kidney transplant later on.
What is the actual name of your condition/diagnosis?
ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease)
Both of your parents are cancer survivors. Your mother’s cancer literally just went into remission. How have their health obstacles impacted your day to day life?
My day to day life had to do drastic changes both while I was in high school and now. When I was in high school my dad had pancreatic cancer, although he lived (and still does) in Gainesville, GA. I would manage to go see him ,after getting off from work at QuickTrip (QT) to tend to him as much as I could, then come back to Norcross, GA. Now that my mom has the same diagnosis, I take care of her first then I take care of myself (dialysis wise). I make sure that she has eaten and has everything she needs at her bedside. I wash her sheets and clean her room and restroom. I do all of this in addition to checking my blood pressure, weighting myself. disconnecting myself from the dialysis machine and throwing out the dextrose bags and lines.
Now that you mother’s cancer is in remission, what is your daily home routine like? What was it like when she had cancer?
When my mom had cancer I would go to the hospital (Northside) everyday, I had to come home to do my dialysis treatments, so I couldn’t spend the night there with her. After getting off my dialysis machine in the morning I would eat a quick breakfast then make my way down to the hospital. I would usually arrive there at around 9am and stay there with her until about 7pm. That was my routine for two weeks. Now that my mom is at home, I take care of her as much as I possibly can. I don’t allow her to carry around heavy items, or do much physical activity that could possibly be more damaging to her. Like I said, I make sure she has everything she needs at her bedside. I make her food, and take her upstairs. Don’t want her to move around a lot because she easily gets dizzy and nausea. I try the best I can to take care of her. My brother helps with what he can as well. I understand that he can’t help as much because he’s a full time college student and works part time at a local hardware store. I have a sister as well, but I haven’t seen or heard from her in months. She doesn’t call or stop by to see if we’re ok or need anything.
You have been on dialysis for a total of 4 years. How has your life changed in the past 5 years? (what was your life like before and what is it like now?)
I used to be traveling, meeting new people, working. Now that I’m on dialysis I can’t travel as much or as freely as I used to.
What are some of the side effects that you are dealing with from doing dialysis?
Tiredness, sleepy, hungry, at times back pain (from having the dextrose in the peritoneal membrane that cleans me everyday) side note: the dextrose solution helps get rid of toxins and urine (since I can’t produce urine anymore) so carrying that throughout the day puts a strain on your back.
What is the hardest part about doing dialysis and has doing dialysis but an extra strain on any of your other organs?
The hardest part at first would be, actually (for me) is accepting dialysis. Besides that, I would say is being connected to a machine for 8hrs/ day. Other than my kidney failure I’m otherwise healthy and feel fine.
With your health being in the state that it is in, everyday isn’t always a good day, How do you get through days that are hard and discouraging?
I try to keep a positive outlook. I try not to think about my kidney failure as much because it only makes me feel bad, almost to the point to where I want to quit dialysis.
What do you need to continue the fight for your life?
I need to continue on with my daily dialysis treatments. As well as in need of a kidney donor (blood type O+)
Are you on a waiting list for a new organ or are you only proactively looking for donors?
Yes. I’m on a waiting list at Emory University and I’m also looking for a donor. Each month my dialysis center (Davita) sends Emory two tubes of blood. That blood work that was sent to Emory gets scanned in the Emory system to see if there’s a match. I have been on the waiting list for a year now. I have been told that wait times can be anywhere from 4-7 yrs, or unless I find a donor myself.
How can anyone who is possibly interested in donating a kidney to you, and see if they are a match for you?
If you’re interested in becoming a donor, call Emory Transplant Center at (404) 778-7777 or toll free at 1 855-366-7989. First, you are screened over the phone by a nurse. If found to be healthy, you will be asked to go in for blood testing among others such as EKG, MRI’s, CT Scans, and X-RAY. If you are a match, transplant surgery is scheduled.
Right now, the goal is to get you a kidney from a donor that matches; However, your journey does not end after you receive this new kidney.
What is the next step after you get a match?
I am hoping to go back to my normal life. working, hanging out with friends, and just enjoying life.
What is the Georgia Transplant Foundation and how are they helping you in the process of getting a new Kidney?
Georgia Transplant Foundation (GTF) has made me a web page where people can donate funds to go towards my kidney transplant. Georgia Transplant Foundation will match whatever I raise up to 10K. The money will be used to help pay for my anti-rejection medication during and after the transplant. Anti-rejection medication can easily exceed $2,500/month.
If anyone is interested in donating/supporting you, where can they go to do so?
I have provided a link to my personal transplant page where people can donate whatever amount they can. Here is the link that you may visit if you ‘d like to donate.
How has dealing with Kidney failure and going through dialysis changed your outlook on life?
Kidney failure has taught me to be a little bit more optimistic, understanding, and patience. Kidney failure has taught me to have a positive outlook, and not to take life for granted. I try to teach others on the importance of going to the doctor regularly and getting their blood pressure checked. High blood pressure is another cause of kidney failure, apart from drinking and smoking.
How has your experience been with trying to get a donor that is a match for you?
It’s been hard, it’s not easy asking someone if they’d like to get tested to see if they’re a match for you.