This year, Reading, PA resident, Marleny Jimenez is celebrating receiving the greatest gift of all – the gift of life. Just a few months ago, Marleny’s life was vastly differently than it is today, thanks to the selflessness of her fiancé, Fernando Malpica, who generously donated a kidney to her in October, 2015.
Years before, Marleny went to the hospital with flu-like symptoms. She was told that her kidneys weren’t functioning and that she was in kidney failure. Because doctors believed that her condition was not acute, they gave her medication in hopes of reversing some of the damage to her kidneys and returning her to good health. Unfortunately after just a short period of time, it was apparent that the damage to her kidneys was irreversible, and she would need to go on dialysis.
Marleny chose to do overnight, at home dialysis. After a year of being listed on the organ transplant waitlist and doing dialysis, she was suffering. Her muscles were constantly cramping, she had pain at the source of the dialysis port and would have extreme swelling. She knew that people who are waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant can wait up to five years or more. In the U.S., some people never receive a second chance at life, with statistics now showing that 22 people die each day while waiting.
Doctors asked Marleny if she knew anyone who could be a potential living donor for her. Living donors needed to be in good health, and many of her family members had diabetes and high blood pressure, so they were unable to donate even if they wanted to. Fernando, who was her boyfriend at the time, stepped up and wanted to donate, but Marleny was hesitant. She was scared for him and didn’t want him to regret the decision later. But Fernando persisted. In his life, he had watched his grandfather pass away from cancer and felt helpless, which was very difficult for him. This was his opportunity to do something, and he was determined to help.
Marleny and Fernando have been together for six years, and they are not only a good match in life, but they were a perfect match for living donation. On October 23, 2015, the surgery successfully took place.
“A few days after surgery I was still in pain, but shortly after I did start to notice major changes. My appetite improved and so did my mood and emotional state.” said Marleny. “I started getting all of these intense food cravings in the hospital. I was so skinny before. In the past few months, I’ve gained 15 pounds. I had to give up so much before because I was so run down – school, sports, drawing and painting. Now, I feel like I’m ready to get back on track. I have energy and am thinking about a career and drawing again. I know that I need time to fully recuperate, but I’m happy because I feel like doing things again.” Fernando is also doing well since the surgery.
Originally from the Dominican Republic, Marleny moved to the U.S. six years ago. This Christmas, she is looking forward to spending it with Fernando and his family, who cared for her after the transplant. She is also hoping to be able to travel back to the Dominican Republic to see her grandparents by next year. She’s excited to introduce Fernando to her grandparents, and to share her culture with him. Fernando is originally from Peru, and she would also like to visit his country together.
This Christmas, she’s looking forward to finally being able to enjoy the foods that were restricted before her transplant. “Last year, everyone stayed up all night to celebrate the holiday and I had to go to bed early. It was hard to want to be with Fernando’s family and have fun, eat and drink, and instead to have to go to bed and do dialysis. I’m really looking forward to enjoying myself this year.” she said.
“Now Fernando is a part of me.” Marleny said. “He was my partner before, but this is different. He has made my life better – he saved my life. It’s just this big, beautiful gesture and I’m so grateful.”