Restoring Hope

Luz and James Selby struck up a romance in the Summer of 2012. At that time, Luz, who is originally from the Dominican Republic, had no idea the challenges she and James would endure together in the future.

It all started when James was rushed to the hospital because of severe pain on his left side at the young age of 4. “Back then, we didn’t have the technology we do now, doctors turned my mother and I away because they couldn’t find anything wrong with me,” said James.

It wasn’t until James suffered an accident years later that doctors discovered he had Wilms’ tumor, a rare form of kidney cancer. Doctors removed his left kidney and treated him with radiation and chemotherapy. The medication used to treat his cancer ultimately damaged his heart and the remaining kidney. Eventually, James’ remaining kidney failed, and he began dialysis treatment so a machine could filter his blood to keep him alive.

While on dialysis, James wasn’t responding to treatment, and doctors discovered he was having heart complications. He was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart grows to be two times its size and does not effectively pump blood through the body. “I was in college and was told that my life was basically over,” said James.

James now needed a kidney and heart transplant to save his life. “I spent six months in the hospital waiting for my transplants,” said James. In April 1998, James received both his transplants because of a generous organ donor. “I was finally able to leave the hospital and I had a great quality of life for many years,” said James.

Luz met James more than a decade after his transplants. “I didn’t know anything about organ donation and transplantation until I met James,” said Luz. While they were dating, James’ kidney began to fail again, and he resumed dialysis. “I saw what he was going through and that made me love him even more. I wanted to be by his side.”

In 2013, James received a second lifesaving kidney transplant, this time from his sister. Because of this gift, he and Luz were able to get married in 2015. “Learning about the process of donation and transplantation and watching his recovery strengthened our bond,” said Luz. “As a member of the Hispanic community, I believe our community needs more education about donation. Hearing stories about what others have gone through would help people understand how important donation is.”

“We are so grateful for these gifts and are so appreciative of my sister and my first kidney and heart donor because now we can live our best lives possible,” said James. Both James and Luz are advocates for organ donation and continue to spread awareness about his lifesaving gifts.

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