DES MOINES, Iowa -- Nearly 600 people are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant in Iowa, but one man didn’t have to look far for his second chance at life.
Daniel Cruz looks like a healthy man in his thirties. You wouldn’t guess what he’s been through. He said, "I was just in shock. I couldn't believe what was going on."
Cruz first learned he had problems with his kidneys in 2009. He started feeling better until a few years later when he just couldn't shake what he thought was the flu.
"So, he (the doctor) called me back the same night," Cruz said. "He said, Daniel, your results are horrible. You’ve got to get to the emergency room. I believe you have kidney failure."
That was in January of 2013. He immediately went on dialysis and the waiting list for a kidney transplant. Knowing he didn't have long, doctors suggested his siblings think about being a living donor.
"I didn't want to ask them," Cruz said. "I didn't want them to go down that road, something to happen to them. I didn't want to go that route."
“There’s a huge need for kidney transplants. Kidney transplant is the best treatment for kidney failure," said Iowa Methodist Transplant Program Director Dr. Qasim Chaudhry. "We know kidney failure is on the rise from the increase in diabetes and hypertension in the community and other illnesses too.”
The problem is, the number of deceased donors has remained the same, even with increased awareness efforts. Dr. Chaudhry says that’s why it’s important to talk to family about being an organ donor when you die and consider being a living kidney donor, in case a loved one needs it.
"The living donor transplants come out of people who are really healthy," Dr. Chaudhry said. "The kidney is of very good quality. And, those will last 20 years as opposed to a deceased donor kidney, which will last about ten years."
Daniel's sister ended up being a match and on May 28th, 2013. The younger sister donated one of her kidneys to her older brother.
“I'm doing great. She's doing awesome. She lives in Kansas." Cruz continued, "She really is an angel, and I look at her that way."
Now, Cruz shares his story to others waiting for a transplant.
“My goal is really I would like to tell people, hey this is not the end," Cruz said.
April is Donate Life month. Deceased organ donors can save up to eight lives through transplant and about 50 through tissue donation. You can register to be an organ and tissue donor at www.iowadonorregistry.org. You can also find more information and answers to frequently asked questions there.