Can I tell you a story?
The lives of my cousin, Giovanni, and I unfolded quite differently. Giovanni yearned for guidance, knowledge, and love, and he sought them out anywhere he could find them. He took to the streets—moved out of his home at 13, became a father at 15, slept in juvenile hall at 16, and received newfound respect in the drug world after coming out of the penitentiary at 17. He was stabbed at 18, survived gunshot wounds to the neck at 19, fathered his second child at 20, and spent months at a maximum security prison at 21. He suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the head at 22 and did not live to breathe another breath after April 16th, 2011.
I was encouraged to excel in education, and I was adored and respected by teachers and classmates alike. I transferred to a high-achieving school where teachers cultivated a love of learning and parents were actively involved. Although I lived in the same impoverished city as Giovanni, it is clear that our experiences could not have been more different.
Not only did Giovanni inspire meaning in my life, he literally gave me my life. Two months before his untimely death, he signed up online as an organ donor. When I was ten I was diagnosed with a kidney disease that would put me on dialysis if I did not receive a kidney transplant. On the last day of Giovanni’s life, he saved mine by giving me his kidney, and a piece of him lives through me.
Because of his incredible gift, I decided it was time to begin following my heart, now made possible by his sacrifice. I left my job of seven years to travel to Chile to teach English, which led me to where I am now, at Columbia University pursuing my Master’s degree in education. Unfortunately, four months from my expected graduation date, I find myself in need of a kidney transplant again.
After returning from one of the most important trips of my life in Mexico, I felt my health deteriorating day by day. In a matter of two weeks my life has changed drastically. The wait time for a kidney from a deceased donor is more than five years and twice that for an anonymous living donor. If someone gifts life to me as a direct living donor, I would avoid the hardships that come with living on dialysis.
The year after Giovanni passed away, and after his kidney passed to me, was incredibly hard. My cousin gave me life but he also broke my heart. I couldn’t separate his death and his gift to me. It was all intertwined—in my mind, in my body. To be able to see that person who has offered a part of themselves to you, sitting by your side, alive… to be able to look them in their eyes and thank them, is something very different.
If you are interested in becoming a donor, please reach out to me and fill out this brief medical questionnaire (https://my.tonicforhealth.com/passage/survey/OPhww44yJ5dqjnPKTLa6Kw/welcome
). A transplant coordinator will review it and contact you to let you know if you are a potential donor. If you know of someone who might be interested, please share my story.
Visit the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) website: www.kidney.org/livingdonation for more information about living donation. You can also contact the NKF’s free, confidential helpline at 855.NKF.CARES (855.653.2273) or firstname.lastname@example.org. They can also connect you to someone who has already donated a kidney.
The name for the form is Noell Marisol Cantu.
My birthday is November 23, 1987.
Thank you for hearing my story.