Kidney donation leads to lifelong friendship
More than 150,000 people in the U.S. are living full and active lives with transplanted kidneys. Nate Rivera was one of those people – until he experienced kidney failure for the second time.
Nate had moved from Puerto Rico to the mainland United States at age 9, living with his mom first in Chicago and then in Springfield, Missouri. Born with Alport syndrome, a rare inherited disease that damages the kidneys with a gradual buildup of scar tissue, Nate's first kidney failure occurred when he was 16.
"My body just took over," he says. "I was weak and tired all the time. I missed school. I missed time with friends. I was plugged into a machine for 6 months straight. It was like I was slowly dying and there was nothing I could do."
Nate's father visited from Puerto Rico to donate a kidney to his son. The gift gave Nate several good years, during which he moved to the Kansas City area and opened a barbershop in Olathe, Kansas. But the respite was short-lived. After about 5 years, the kidney failed, sending Nate back to dialysis.
"It was very upsetting, but I tried to hang on to a positive attitude as much as possible," he says. During this time, Nate got married and became a father. "There are times that I really felt like giving up, but my baby girl brought me joy and strength."
With the move to Kansas City, Nate transferred his care to The University of Kansas Health System. Nephrologist Dennis Diederich, MD, supported Nate through 3 1/2 years of dependency on dialysis to filter his blood. Nephrologist Amna Ilahe, MD, took the helm of Nate's care following Dr. Diedrich's retirement and was ready to support transplant care at the first opportunity.