Dialysis Friends Receive Simultaneous Kidney Transplants
While on dialysis in Chico, 64-year old Ranulfo Villegas Moreno befriended fellow patient Vicente Castrejon. The two men—both of whom came to California from Mexico—became fast friends, sharing stories of their family and home town while undergoing dialysis sessions. Little did the men know that they would ultimately share kidneys from the same donor.
Ranulfo, a farm laborer who worked long hours to provide for his family, started his kidney transplant journey in Spring 2005 when Chico nephrologist Jose Sibal, M.D. told him that due to his diabetes and high blood pressure, he would need dialysis within six months. Soon after, during a trip to Mexico, Ranulfo became very ill, ultimately needing hospitalization and dialysis.
About a year after starting dialysis at DaVita Chico Dialysis Center, Ranulfo’s daughter Alicia took him for a kidney transplant evaluation in Roseville at California Pacific Medical Center’s outreach clinic. He completed the necessary medical work-up and his name was placed on the transplant waiting list. Ranulfo anticipated a long wait for a transplant.
A Model Dialysis Patient
“My dad was a model dialysis patient and I would show him off as an example to other patients,” says Alicia Moreno, one of Ranulfo’s eight children and a patient care technician at DaVita Chico Dialysis Center. “My mom supported him and encouraged him to eat correctly and monitored his medications and fluid intake,” she explains.
While her dad tried to keep up his spirits while on dialysis, he sometimes doubted whether the transplant would occur. Alicia explains, “He put on a brave face for our family but he was concerned whether the transplant would happen, and he longed to go back to work.”
In February 2009, two and a half years after having his name placed on the transplant waiting list, Ranulfo’s family received a call from California Pacific’s Kidney Team. “The transplant call came at 12:30 in the morning and within 15 minutes, my sister and parents were on their way from Chico to San Francisco in high hopes that he would undergo kidney transplant surgery,” says Alicia.
A Chance Encounter at the Hospital
While Ranulfo’s family was waiting to learn about his surgery, they saw familiar faces in the hospital lobby. “My family knew of my dad’s friendship with Vicente from dialysis and our families had enjoyed occasional visits in Chico,” says Alicia. “So we couldn’t believe it when we saw each other at the hospital!”
As it turns out, Ranulfo and Vicente each received a kidney from the same donor and underwent back-to-back kidney transplants. “My dad jokes that he and Vicente are like brothers now and are united because they share organs from the same donor,” marvels Alicia. During Ranulfo and Vicente’s hospital recovery they would visit each other on the transplant floor, comparing notes about their kidney function and marveling that fate brought them together at the time of transplant.
“My dad’s transplant is a great example of the American dream,” says Alicia. “He immigrated to the United States and worked hard to bring his family from Mexico. He endured dialysis by thinking of his 15 grandchildren and trying to remain optimistic. When he ultimately received a transplant it was like a dream come true.”
Now Ranulfo does a little dance when he sees his transplant nephrologists, as he can’t believe how good he feels. “I really see how fast he is improving,” observes Alicia. “The kidney was perfect and now he and Vicente have a lifelong connection.”
article published in October 2009 Kidney Review newsletter