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After three years of waiting for a transplant and receiving dialysis treatments, Juan received a kidney transplant from his girlfriend Lacie in February 2009. The two were engaged just two days before his surgery. Now, both Juan and Lacie volunteer by offering support to patients on the transplant waiting list and participating in local transplant fundraisers. In May 2010, Juan and Lacie will wed in St. Lucia, the first time they will take a trip together, having been denied previously due to the scheduling of dialysis.
In January 2006, at age 29, Juan Perez was placed on dialysis after suffering kidney reflux and seizures. That September, he was placed on the kidney transplant list. For the next three years, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 4:30 to 9:00 p.m., Juan would be dedicated to the first chair in pod 2A in the dialysis unit at Saint Francis Hospital.
“I tried to keep as normal a life as possible,” he recalled. “I kept my full-time job as a parole officer. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I would work late to make up the hours that I took off early to get to dialysis. There was never a night of the week that I would get home before 8:30. In fact, getting home that early was a treat.
“My girlfriend, Lacie, and I had been living together for three years. We weren’t in a rush about things. She wanted to finish her schooling and I wanted to have a transplant before we committed ourselves and took our relationship to that next level. We couldn’t possibly have fathomed what that next level would be.”
Their lives continued this way for the next three years. In October 2008, at the annual meeting with the transplant committee, Lacie asked if she could be considered to donate one of her kidneys to Juan. According to Juan, there was some hesitation from the staff, due in large part to Lacie‘s age (24) and having no children. They told her if she wanted to donate, she would have to get the ball rolling and then call them. The very next day, that’s exactly what she did.
Lacie underwent a battery of tests and passed all of them. By Thanksgiving, it was confirmed that she was a match, but the couple waited until Christmas to tell their families. “We couldn’t think of a better Christmas miracle to share,” said Juan. “Two days before our surgery, February 3, 2009, I proposed to Lacie. For us, it was much more than a proposal. It was a vision of a life that we had for so long only been able to imagine.
“On February 5, 2009, Lacie and I had our transplant. Within hours, the life that we had imagined was suddenly a reality. We no longer have to worry about phosphorous, potassium, fluid intake, cramps, headaches or nausea. We are able to live a normal life free of all the restraints that dialysis places on you and your loved ones.”
Since the transplant, Juan and Lacie have participated in the annual Kidney Klassic Run and volunteered as speakers at the orientation class for patients on the transplant list. Juan shared that “We have decided on a destination wedding. We’ve never taken a trip together, due to the scheduling of dialysis, so come May 21, 2010, we will be saying ‘I do’ in St. Lucia.”
Do you want to honor a transplant recipient whom you know: a transplant recipient, a heroic donor family, transplant team? You can have a rose dedicated to be placed on the 2010 Rose Parade Float Family Circle Garden. To learn more and how to honor that special hero by visiting the Donate Life Family Circle.