HARLINGEN – Victor Blanco of San Benito will be forever grateful to a man who Victor never knew – a person who was willing to donate his organs when he died.
Because of that person’s decision, Victor is now celebrating his third-year anniversary of living with a donated kidney.
Three years ago, Victor’s own kidneys were failing. At the young age of 29, he needed a transplant – and was placed on a long waiting list for a kidney donation. Then in April 2013, he received a phone call – from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, which had found a potential match for Victor.
Victor, family members and friends drove through the night to Galveston, where a transplant was successfully performed at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). Victor left that hospital four days later, with a new kidney.
“It’s like you are born again … the next day when I woke up, I felt like a new man,” Victor said during a recent presentation on organ donation at Harlingen Medical Center, as part of National Donate Life Month.
While at Harlingen Medical Center, Victor also wanted to thank the doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals who took care of him there. Victor’s long road back to health actually started at Harlingen Medical, when he was brought into the Emergency Room after he started retaining water in his feet.
“At the time, I didn’t know what was going on … it was very baffling,” Victor said. “But the staff members at Harlingen Medical Center were amazing. They found out about my kidney problems, and that I needed a new kidney, and they took real good care of me.”
Physicians at Harlingen Medical started Victor on dialysis, a process in which a machine is used to filter waste out of the body – something which is normally done by healthy kidneys.
“The nurses at Harlingen Medical Center taught me from ‘A to Z’ what to do, to get started with dialysis treatment,” Victor said. “I can’t thank them enough, from everyone in the Emergency Room to upstairs in the ICU … the nurses were there for me, holding my hand, even after their shift ended. I will never forget my experience at Harlingen Medical Center … it was very beautiful.”
Even though he was suddenly facing an unexpected medical diagnosis at a very young age, Victor kept a positive attitude. Despite needing dialysis treatments three times a week, he kept going to the gym to work out, and he kept working at his job as a promotions assistant at the KVEO Channel 23 TV station in Brownsville.
“Work would keep me motivated,” Victor said. “I tried to stay positive. I’m a very energetic person. The Transplant Support Group meetings, and my family from Los Angeles, Mexico and here in the Rio Grande Valley is what kept me focused … and many people helped with my fundraising efforts for my medical expenses. I’m very blessed.”
The name of his Facebook page – “Victor’s Hope” – also reflected his determination to battle kidney disease. An added motivation was his young godson, Benny, now three years old.
“He’s my inspiration and I love him with all my heart,” Victor said. “Till this day I carry Benny’s baby mitten wherever I go, knowing he is right next to me. I want to make sure that I, as his padrino, will be there for him.”
Now that he has benefitted from organ donation, Victor is serving as sort of an ambassador to promote others in the Valley to sign up to become a donor.
“All of my family members are now organ donors,” he said. “One of my uncles passed away after an accident in North Carolina, but because he was an organ donor, he saved a lot of lives. Being an organ donor doesn’t cost anything, and it’s a beautiful thing.”
Victor noted that because of diabetes, there are many people in the Valley in need of a kidney transplant … yet very few people have made the decision to be an organ donor.
“Right now I have a friend of mine who needs a double transplant,” Victor added. “You can help so many people by signing up to be an organ and tissue donor.”
With April being National Donate Life Month, Valley residents are encouraged to consider becoming a donor, and to make their wishes known to family members. For more information on organ and tissue donation, please contact the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance in McAllen at (956) 630-0884 or visit www.TxOrganSharing.org.