SAN ANTONIO — It is a sad statistic: 22 people die each day because the organ they need is not donated in time.
Jose Maya and Santiago Mejia own the Maya Cafe, and have been together for 12 years. In 2012, Mejia started to get sick.
"He went to the hospital and they were trying to find out what was wrong with him," Maya said. "After three years they found out it was kidney disease."
Mejia started dialysis in 2015 while waiting for a new kidney. Maya decided he wanted to be the donor.
"I told him if he is OK, I'm going to be his donator (sic)," he said.
But he wasn't a match. The wait continued.
"They just kind of were in that limbo state where he very much wants a recipient a living donor and the donor wants to give, and then we introduced the idea: 'Would you be willing to consider a swap?' said Dr. Elizabeth Thomas, an associate professor of surgery at the UT Health Science Center and transplant surgeon for University Health System. "They didn't hesitate at all. They said, 'Absolutely.'"
Meanwhile, about one year ago, Yem Kim was given some bad news by her doctor.
"He told me, 'Your kidney is only 15% working.' I kind of busted into tears, because I'm still young," she said.
She went on the transplant list and started dialysis. Kim said, "Had to be on dialysis three days a week four hours a day."
Because she also joined the kidney exchange, she didn't have to wait the typical six-plus years for a transplant. Instead, it was just six months.
"They called me and said there is this match. And I said, 'OK.' I didn't expect to get that call in December so fast," she said.
That match was Maya. Mejia also found a match thanks to the exchange.
One month later, it was time for transplant.
"She was in the waiting room and I told him 'I think my kidney is going to be for her,'" Maya said.
Now all three are on the mend and have a special bond.
"We text a lot to say, 'How you are doing,' and checking on him," Kim said.
All three say joining an exchange program is a no-brainer of a decision.
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