On June 17, just one week after getting a medical evaluation for kidney transplantation at Boston Medical Center, “I was on the table,” said Donald Gomes, 71, a new transplant recipient, whose kidney problems were originally diagnosed after a heart attack in 2006.
With Gomes’ vital bean-shaped organs unable to adequately filter his blood, “it was like a boat that kept springing a leak and you kept plugging up the boat with medication … to help the kidneys work,” said Gomes, an alternate member on New Bedford’s Zoning Board, former veteran’s services director for the city and a prominent figure in the local Cape Verdean community.
“Finally it got to the point that I was just around the corner — I mean like that close — to dialysis.”
Gomes said he had trouble stomaching the idea of being hooked up to a machine for the arduous procedure and opted to look into a transplant.
He found two potential donors in his daughters Deanne Gomes-Stanley and Donelle Gomes, the latter of whom said Tuesday that giving up her kidney was an easy choice.
“He’s my father,” she said. “That’s what families are all about.”
Days after the transplant consultation — before doctors could even determine whether Donald Gomes’ daughters were matches — tragedy struck Tyler Tourinho Sr., 21, in Florida. A relative of Donald Gomes’ wife, Carol Gomes, Tourinho died June 14 after suffering a head trauma in Tampa.
He was a cable technician in Florida who had worked in the oil cleanup on the Gulf of Mexico and was the father of a baby son named Tyler Tourinho Jr.
He was also one of too few registered organ donors in the United States and the donation process started after the family was told he no longer had any brain activity.
Donald Gomes hadn’t told many people about his hopes for a transplant. However, Donelle mentioned it to Tourinho’s mother before Tyler’s death.
“Don’t ask me how I thought about (Donald) in Florida because I don’t know … I was just beside myself,” said Renee Tourinho, a relative of Carol Gomes.
But after leaving the hospital, she said she told Tyler’s father, Mark Tourinho, “that Uncle Donald needed a kidney and Tyler’s an organ donor, so why don’t we see if it can work out?”
Donald Gomes said he was “stunned” by the offer. And despite sharing no blood relationship with Tyler, when the two men’s blood types and tissue were compared, “everything matched,” Gomes said. “It’s phenomenal.”
Now at home and looking spry after the transplant and several days in recovery at Boston Medical, Donald Gomes said he has suffered no complications.
“It’s really bittersweet,” he said. “It’s not natural that parents bury (their) kids. It should be the other way around. … It’s really sad. But I got his kidney and it’s going to make my life better.”
Donelle Gomes echoed him, calling the transplant a “blessing.”
“I’ve gone through so many emotions in this short period of time — mourning Tyler, but at the same time you’re ecstatic for my father,” she said.
Meanwhile, suffering a wound that’s searing and fresh, Renee Tourinho — who lost Tyler one day before her birthday — said she’s taking one day at a time as she deals with the loss of the child she called a loving father and hard-worker.
She clutched a snapshot of her son as she spoke with The Standard-Times, squeezed Donald Gomes’ hand at one point and reflected that if Donelle Gomes hadn’t mentioned her father needed a kidney, “I would have never known.”
She said other organs of Tyler’s are being donated and she hopes to find out where.
“I miss him so much … I feel like it’s a dream. It’s awful,” Renee Tourinho said.
But in Donald Gomes, she said, “we know Tyler’s living on.”