ELIZABETH, NJ – A local heartwarming story of a mother’s selflessness and a son’s resilience has captured the community’s attention and is raising awareness about the power of organ and tissue donation and transplantation.
Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center. Carlos’ kidney donor hero was his mother, Daisy Vasquez, 59, of Elizabeth, NJ, who made the selfless decision to donate one of her kidneys to save the life of her son. Their incredible journey not only brought hope to their family but also ignited their passion to raise awareness and support the efforts of NJ Sharing Network, the non-profit organization responsible for the recovery of donated organs and tissue for transplant in the Garden State.
Today, Carlos struggles to keep his emotions in check when he thinks about the decision his mother made in donating one of her kidneys to him.
“I think it is impossible for anyone to fully realize how much your mom loves you. My mom has always been there for me, and she never hesitated for a second to help me when I needed it most. I am alive and feeling better and stronger each day thanks to her,” said Carlos.
Daisy does her best to downplay her caring decision to donate her kidney to Carlos.
“I would assume that every parent would do what I did without hesitation to help their child. When we see our children sick, we want to do anything we can to take their pain away. I have said to Carlos, ‘If I could give you my heart, I would,’” said Daisy.
The Journey to Transplant
Six years ago, Carlos’ life took a sudden turn when he began experiencing debilitating headaches and severe leg swelling. He was later diagnosed with Wegener's vasculitis, a rare autoimmune condition that attacked his kidneys, ultimately leading to renal failure. Dialysis became a daily necessity for Carlos.
“I was worried that I would have to live my whole life on a machine,” said Carlos.
Hope was rekindled when effective treatments improved Carlos’ kidney health, allowing him to discontinue dialysis. For five years, Carlos remained vigilant about his health, but in 2022, a steep decline in kidney function left him with a grim 97% kidney failure diagnosis.
“It was a difficult and dark time for our entire family,” said Daisy. “I wanted to help, but I thought I was too old to donate my kidney. Thankfully, the doctor educated me on living donation, and said we should consider it because I was in good health.”
With hope dwindling, Daisy made the courageous decision to undergo rigorous testing for kidney donation. The results showed that Daisy and Carlos were a strong match for transplant and surgery was scheduled for March 1, 2023.
“I was very nervous, but I knew I had God on my side and that my mom was right there with me. That gave me strength,” said Carlos.
The transplant surgery was a success and both Carlos and Daisy have recovered well and are living life to its fullest.
“I feel like I now have a second lease on life, and I feel like I am getting back to my old self again,” said Carlos.
Daisy is also proud to report that she is feeling healthier than ever.
“I feel like I am in my prime now, and it feels like the surgery never happened,” said Daisy. “I run and walk at least 3-5 miles each day, and my doctors are delighted with my quick recovery.”
The Vasquez family's journey is not just a story of triumph over adversity; it's also a story of advocacy for organ and tissue donation. Daisy is a volunteer for NJ Sharing Network and is focused on dispelling myths and misinformation and organ and tissue donation, especially within the Hispanic community.
“Most people are not aware that you can donate a kidney or a part of your liver while you are alive,” said Daisy. “But, more importantly, I encourage everyone to check the box to register as organ and tissue donors to give the gift of life after you pass away. I can only donate one kidney while I am alive, but I am happy to donate my organs and tissue to help others when my life is over.”
According to United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), there are over 100,000 Americans – nearly 4,000 of whom live in New Jersey – waiting for a life-saving transplant. However, the generosity of those in the Garden State is providing hope for the future. In 2022, the number of organ donors and organs transplanted in a single year reached all-time highs. This marked the fourth consecutive year NJ Sharing Network has reported new records in the number of organ donors, underscoring the clear trend of increased support for organ donation.
To learn more, get involved, and join the National Donate Life Registry as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.NJSharingNetwork.org.
PHOTO: Carlos and Daisy Vasquez (Photo Credit: Courtesy of NJ Sharing Network)