DeKALB – It has been about two years since 19-year-old Ricky De La Cruz underwent a life-saving heart transplant.
Although the surgery allowed him to live a more active life, Ricky still suffered from kidney problems, which eventually became so severe he needed a kidney transplant.
Luckily, Ricky did not have to wait long to find a donor. His father, Lalo, will donate one of his kidneys to Ricky on Monday.
“It’s what you do to keep your kids alive,” Lalo De La Cruz said.
About November of last year, Lalo De La Cruz was tested to see if he was a compatible match and was the only acceptable donor in the first group tested. More than a dozen other family members and friends volunteered to get tested, he said.
“I was afraid they’d find something bad in my body, but they didn’t,” the 56-year-old said. “I told my wife, ‘I’m getting old, but I’m very healthy.’ ”
At times, the testing procedures were very extensive for Lalo De La Cruz. Earlier this month, he went through 11 hours of blood testing, ultrasounds and other examinations.
He was encouraged to speak with someone who had gotten a kidney transplant a year ago. The man told him for the first couple of weeks after the surgery, he would be walking like an old man and would be in a lot of pain, but would feel a lot better after that.
In anticipation of the surgery, Lalo De La Cruz made a New Year’s resolution to drink only water, since that is one of the only things he can drink right after the surgery. He also will have to have a liquid diet for the first couple of weeks, but can resume a normal diet after that.
“If something happens to my kidney, I would be on the top of the list for a transplant, since I was a live donor, but I don’t think anything’s going to happen to me,” he said.
The week leading up to the surgery, the family experienced a bit of a scare as Ricky had fluid in his lungs and was taken to Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
While there, he also had a biopsy of his heart to make sure his body wasn’t rejecting it.
“We’ve been fighting for him all his life,” Lalo De La Cruz said. “We fix one thing, and another thing comes up, so I’m hoping nothing else will happen. He’s my first child. I feel sorry for him because the life he’s leading right now is not a life.”
Depending on the test results, the surgery might have to be pushed back. Fortunately, Dori De La Cruz, Ricky’s mother and Lalo’s wife, said the test showed no rejection, and the surgery can be performed as scheduled.
Lalo De La Cruz’s surgery is expected to take three or four hours, while Ricky’s will take about six hours. Both surgeries will be at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
Lalo De La Cruz will have to be at the hospital at 5:30 a.m., but joked that he was told by nurses he could still back out.
“I told them, ‘I know, but I’m not going to,’ ” he said.