Kidney donation gift of life
Andrew Ramos was half asleep when his phone rang with the news he waited four years to hear. Exhausted, he almost didn't answer. But he picked up the phone anyway. It was the hospital. "How are you feeling?" the voice on the other end asked. And ...
Andrew Ramos was half asleep when his phone rang with the news he waited four years to hear.
Exhausted, he almost didn't answer. But he picked up the phone anyway.
It was the hospital.
"How are you feeling?" the voice on the other end asked.
And then came the words that answered his prayers:
"Are you ready for a transplant?"
For the 46-year-old Moorhead man, a donated kidney was a gift of life that gave him the second chance his parents didn't get.
Originally from Texas, Ramos grew up in a family with medical problems. Both of his parents died of kidney failure. His mom was 54; his dad 63.
So he knew he would one day face his own battle. He just didn't expect it so soon.
In 2001, he and his wife, Leticia, moved to Moorhead with their two daughters and son. A construction worker, Ramos went to work for T.F. Powers.
By early 2003, he began feeling tired and lacked energy. At age 41, his family's history of kidney problems had found him.
At first, Ramos got by with shots to raise his energy level. Then came dialysis - something he dreaded after seeing what his parents experienced.
Although he thinks he had an easier time than his parents, Ramos said the experience changed his thinking.
"I didn't realize how important it was - until I started dialysis - to get a kidney transplant," he said.
And so the wait continued. Neither his brother nor his sister could help. Both are diabetic and were ruled out as donor possibilities. His uncle was nixed as a potential donor for the same reason.
One phone call
As the years went by, depression and hopelessness set in.
But at 9 p.m. Oct. 23 - after four years of waiting - word came there was a match from a deceased donor. Ramos was told to come to MeritCare Hospital in Fargo to prepare for transplant surgery.
"It was just amazing I got that call," Ramos said. "Finally, our prayer was answered."
Bhargav Mistry, a MeritCare general surgeon with specialization in transplantation, said the hospital typically does 40 to 45 kidney transplants each year.
"Andrew is really a success story of what we have accomplished in the field of transplantation," Mistry said.
Organ shortage reality
However, Ramos' situation also reflects the shortage of organ donors. It's typical for patients needing a kidney to wait three to four years, Mistry said.
The organ shortage is primarily due to people not signing donor cards or postponing making a decision until it's too late, Mistry said.
Some people are under the misconception that they won't receive adequate care if they are ill or hurt and have designated themselves organ donors, he said.
In Ramos' case, his younger age and activity helped him make the long wait for an organ. But in another two to three years, other problems could have developed and made him ineligible for a transplant, Mistry said.
Ramos hopes to one day find and thank the family who donated his new kidney. He wishes more people would donate organs to give others like him the gift of life.
"It's been like I'm starting all over again," Ramos said. "I have a whole life ahead of me now."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Teri Finneman at (701) 241-5560 Kidney donation gift of life Teri Finneman 20071218