Kidney transplant duo celebrate anniversary
Apr 09, 2012 (The Porterville Recorder - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
It has been one year and five days since Sonia Lopez Chavez received a kidney from family friend Ted Rafanan.
But not a day goes by that she is not grateful for her new lease on life.
"Every minute of every day, I am thankful," Chavez said. "It's amazing. My life has changed so much."
Chavez and Rafanan's surgeries took place April 4, 2011 at St. Vincent's Hospital in Los Angeles after Rafanan stepped up to help his niece's best friend by offering one of his kidneys to her.
At the time, Chavez's kidneys had only a 2-to-3 percent function, and she had been on dialysis for three hours, three times a week for three years.
"I was so used to being sick, tired and lifeless," Chavez said. "Then, after the surgery, all of a sudden I could go everywhere and do everything. I could experience life again as it used to be. I was finally alive again."
Chavez said her family also benefitted.
"That's what's incredible. I can do all the family stuff with my husband and my 14-year-old son in general," Chavez said. "I used to go to ball games and either fall asleep halfway through or not go at all. Now I go to family outings and am able to do more. Before I could not plan anything. It affected the whole family."
Chavez said she was thrilled in January when she was able to take a four-day cruise in honor of Rafanan's birthday.
"For me to get away like that and enjoy the sun and swimming and do all the fun stuff -- that's something I couldn't have done before," she said. "That was my first big thing and I loved it and enjoyed not being tied up to dialysis."
Rafanan, Chavez and their respective families celebrated the official one-year anniversary gift date by going out to dinner. They also celebrated a few days earlier at a dinner party with a crowd of more than 100 on March 30. The party included family members and guests who are either on dialysis, had recent kidney transplants and some who are waiting for a transplant.
"It was amazing. There were 124 people there," Chavez said. "Jeremy Cantrell was there. He shared his journey and story. It was wonderful. Everybody walks a different road. I had two friends who started dialysis in March. I wanted to show them the Porterville support."
Chavez said she will forever be thankful to the Rafanan family and is also thankful for the community support.
"I'm tremendously grateful, not only to Ted but to his wife and family," she said. "I'm also thankful to everyone who supported me. People would come up to me in the street and tell me that they were praying for me or thinking of me. I had texts and phone calls. People were wonderful."
For Rafanan, the anniversary party had him smiling.
"It was another surprise party," he said. "My family has been great and supportive."
Rafanan said he is happy to have done it and does not regret it for a minute.
For him, there has been no change physically, he said.
"I'm still living the same lifestyle. No problems whatsoever, no real change," Rafanan said.
What it did do was make him more aware of people's [on dialysis] needs.
"I'm always encouraging people to get tested. There's so many people out there who need help," he said. "I'm living proof that you can survive on one kidney."
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.
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