Name: Guadalupe Alejos
Home: Grand Rapids
Transplant: Kidney at Trinity Health Kidney Transplant Center
Why did you need a transplant and when did it happen?
Back during the Vietnam War, I received a letter to report for duty. But the doctor there said I was disqualified, that I was sick. I thought, ‘Sick from what?’ I felt fine.
But a few years later I was very, very, very sick. Lots of doctors were looking at me, but they didn’t know what was wrong. They finally concluded that my kidneys were failing.
They gave me medicine that kept me well for a few years. But finally, when I was 27, my kidneys completely shut down.
It was pretty bad news from the doctor. He said, “If you don’t have a transplant, you have very little time to go.” That was 1973. Kidney transplants then were very new. It was quite sad and depressing for me for a while. But I knew I was just surviving, not living. I said to myself, “I don’t want to go on living this sick.”
My six brothers all got tested. I’m still thankful to my brother Vincente who gave me an opportunity to still be here.
That was 50 years ago! How are you doing?
I’m doing well. I take my medicine as prescribed; I follow the instructions my doctor gives me, and I eat healthy. I get checkups to see how my kidney is doing. I’ve developed diabetes, but it has nothing to do with my transplant. Things just happen as you get older.
I never thought I would make it this long. The doctor told me my new kidney would last 10 to 15 years. I’m glad I’m able to still be here.
What are the three to five most important events or experiences you’ve been able to enjoy because a donor saved your life?
I enjoy my family. We raised three children and I could be there for them.
I’ve gone on trips to Mexico that would have been impossible without my health. I’ve visited my oldest brother in California.
I had a career in social services working for the state, determining eligibility for people to get food stamps, medical and financial assistance. That was quite something being able to help people. I used to work as a factory worker, and a migrant worker. I knew what they were going through.
What has it been like knowing your brother donated a kidney to save your life?
I’m still so thankful to Vincente. I’m thankful to God, I’m thankful to my wife, Lupe, who has taken care of me.
Vincente is 85. He’s there for me and I’m there for him. We all look after each other.
I’m glad I’m still here. It really was a gift of life.