Reminiscing about my kidney transplant 2 years ago
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - November 8, 2018 - 12:00am

Two years ago, I went through the most dramatic point in my life when I arrived from that historic PAL direct flight from Cebu to Los Angeles and back. Just three days before I boarded that historic flight, I was in Bantayan Island staying in Anika Beach Resort of my good friend Nelson Yuvallos when I developed a fever. My daughter, Dr. Frances Angelique Avila-Tequillo insisted that I go to the hospital for checkup before I go to the US. Now that was something I haven’t done because since I wasn’t even born in a hospital, I have never been hospitalized except to sleep in the hospital when my wife had our three children. So I entered Cebu Doctors Hospital and my nephrologist Dr. Juliet Noel started taking tests and released me to leave for the US with the condition that I see her after I got home.

After my trip to LAX, I got a doctor’s appointment and after the studies, Dr. Noel told me that my kidneys were failing. So I took certain medications to slow down the kidneys from deteriorating further. So I sent my test results to my nephew Dr. Jojo Avila who is a nephrologist in Philadelphia, in the US and he sent word to my family to prepare me for kidney transplant. Now he didn’t even get to physically check me, so I found it outrageous.

I was totally ignorant about kidney transplants except that I knew my late boss, Sir Max Soliven had a kidney transplant and my compadre, the father of my son-in-law Atty. Jennoh Tequillo was on dialysis for four years but he passed away on June 26, 2012 as he must have eaten something that dialysis patients are not allowed to eat.

But Dr. Noel warned me that eventually I had to be on dialysis maybe by December 2016. But my other daughter Katrina who is a non-practicing nurse, but was trained in Asian Renal told me that if she had her way, she wouldn’t allow me to take dialysis because the needles that they stuck inside you are bigger than the straws of MacDonald’s Restaurant.

So here I was, looking for a surgeon who does kidney transplant and I found it in Dr. Alvin Roxas who studied under Dr. Enrique Ona of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute of the Philippines (NKTI). Dr. Ona was executive director of the NKTI and during his time he had a kidney transplant station at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu and another one in Davao City because there was a very long queue at the NKTI and I dare say Dr. Ona did the right thing. Later then President Noy appointed him as Department of Health (DOH) secretary only to terminate him two years later for the wrong reasons. Today I still haven’t met Dr. Ona, but I stand by his reputation and for his professionalism.

So, I talked with Dr. Roxas in his office for two hours and found out that his father was a close friend during our pelota days in the ’70s. I threw a hard question at him, asking him that his patient, a friend of mine died after four years after his kidney transplant. He honestly answered that he cannot guarantee the lives of patients especially those that do not follow certain medical procedures that transplant patients had to follow to the letter.

Then Dr. Roxas told me that if he had 20 patients in dialysis waiting for a kidney transplant, and I still was not in dialysis, he would give me priority because patients who had a transplant but did not undergo a dialysis recover faster. So I took his offer and now two years later I call myself as 90 percent recovered. This is because I still have not returned to playing golf and I get tired easily. But most people I would meet would say I look much better than the days before my transplant.

Nowadays, I make it a point to meet up with people who need my advice if they have kidney problems. I make this my apostolate. I have already met a few, including a Manila lawyer, Leo Romero whom I only met when he came to Cebu, but he read all my articles that I wrote about my kidney problem. So three months after my surgery, he too had a kidney transplant in Manila. We compared notes; he too had tremors due to our anti-rejection medicines. Another friend is Jerome Romea who had his transplant three days after me. He actually lives in Los Angeles and was on dialysis for a year and decided to have a transplant here. He was in Cebu three weeks ago and I invited him for dinner and comparison. We consider ourselves as brothers like other kidney transplantees.

Because of what I wrote that I had my transplant at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) many patients now go and avail of the Cebu Transplant Network group of Dr. Roxas. If you have PhilHealth, you can also avail of their P600,000 financial aid, which I also got. You cannot get that kind of aid if you had a transplant in a private hospital. So to my readers who has a similar medical situation, feel free to write me and allow me to give you an honest advice on this medical problem. I’m not saying that we can solve your problem, but at least help you in your anxious moments.

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