More than 122,000 Americans are waiting for an organ transplant, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. And, more than 85-percent of them need a kidney. Because the wait to get one from a deceased donor can be many years, there is a growing need for living kidney donors.
"I was doing good for many years,” said Lou Mendoza, a San Antonio mechanic. “It wasn't until recently, that it got to more different stages of failure.”
Last year, Lou Mendoza found out his kidney disease had progressed to the point he needed a transplant. He became one of more than 9,300 Texans waiting for a deceased donor kidney. It’s a wait that can be about five to seven years, because the supply simply can’t meet the demand.
"People don't want to think of their own demise,” explained Michelle Segovia with the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance. “But, let's face it, we're all going to die one day. And, what better gift is there than to leave a legacy here on earth in the form of organ donation and save other lives?”
She encourages everyone to become a registered donor. Meantime, there is an option to the waiting list.
"It's so great that we're born with two kidneys, because we can live with one,” said Segovia. “And, if we knew of someone who was in need of one, then hopefully we can could be a match and donate."
That’s exactly what Lou Mendoza’s doctor suggested.
"She said ask your family or friends for a matching,” he said.
In December 2014, his wife of 30-years came up with the perfect gift.
"My wife, she kept it a secret that she was a match and she told me on Christmas,” said Lou Mendoza.
It was a gift, the whole family was behind.
"I wanted to give this gift to my husband, because he gave me three beautiful children,” said Annette Mendoza. “And, he's my world."
The question of who would save Lou Mendoza’s life was over and it brought about many emotions.
“One, it's rare for a married couple,” he said. “Two, that's her character, I was more worried about her - how she was going to come out and just overwhelmed. She's a good person.”
On October 16, Annette Mendoza was able to deliver her gift to her husband when the couple underwent surgery at the Kidney Transplant Center at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center.
When she woke up, she said, "I felt like a million dollars. I did.”
Barely six weeks later, the Mendoza’s are well on the road to recovery.
"Oh, I feel terrific; I feel great,” Annette Mendoza said. “I don't feel any pain or anything.”
Lou Mendoza said, “"Physically, I'm getting better - stronger. I'm just more happy. I see life a little more different, you know. I've always been humble. But, this, it's just a blessing.”
The couple, already bonded by love, share a physical one now too.
"We haven't named it,” said Lou Mendoza. “But, she says it's ‘her girl,’ because we don't have any daughters - we have three boys. So, she says that's my girl taking care of us.”
The Mendoza’s now plan on becoming living kidney donor advocates, in an effort to save more lives.
"I would say, if you feel it in your heart, do it,” said Annette Mendoza. “If you feel that you could donate a kidney to a loved one or someone, if I had five more, I would give it all."
In addition to being a match for a recipient, there’s a lot that goes into becoming a living kidney donor.
Tuesday night at 9:00, FOX 7 will show you what it takes, and what life is like, after you’ve shared your spare part.