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Sergio Grifaldo – kidney transplant success story

The gift of brotherly love

How Francisco Grifaldo’s kidney donation saved his brother’s life

Brothers Sergio and Francisco Grifaldo Brothers Sergio (left) and Francisco Grifaldo are closer than
ever since Francisco donated one of his kidneys to Sergio.

Maypearl, Texas, is 1,526 miles from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but both share a motto of “brotherly love.”

Sergio and Francisco Grifaldo moved from Mexico to Maypearl when they were 7 and 8 years old, respectively. The two youngest of seven children, they grew up to be best friends, knowing the value of hard work, family, and, now more than ever, life.

This past fall, Francisco became a living kidney donor to save his brother from kidney failure.

Failing kidneys

Around Christmas 2013, then-19-year-old Sergio began suffering severe stomach cramps, dizziness, frequent urination, nausea, and vomiting.

“I was really grumpy,” Sergio says. “As soon as I would eat, I would get nausea and cramping. It never got better.”

He lived with these debilitating symptoms for over a year before he was referred to nephrologist Samir Nangia, MD, on the medical staff at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. In May 2015, Dr. Nangia ordered a biopsy, which revealed 70 percent of Sergio’s kidneys didn’t function because of scarring.

“It was a shock because I had never had issues before,” Sergio says. “They told me the scarring was most likely caused by strep throat or a stomach virus I had a long time ago. Now my only option was dialysis every day until I could get a transplant.”

An unexpected gift

Brothers Sergio and Francisco Grifaldo walkingBecause he worked during the day as a bank teller in Midlothian, Sergio did his dialysis every night while he slept.

The dialysis worked to stop the cramps, nausea, and vomiting, but Sergio knew it was only a temporary solution. His mother and sisters were devastated to learn he would need a transplant, but not his older brother Francisco.

“I wanted to know what the process was to get tested for a kidney transplant,” Francisco says. “I just wanted him off of that stupid machine.”

Irfan Agha, MD, MRCP(UK), transplant nephrologist on the medical staff at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, evaluated Sergio and deemed him a perfect candidate for a new kidney.

Thus began the search for prospective donors. Francisco was the first Grifaldo to get tested.

Sergio recalls the day the results came in.

“Francisco called me at work and told me he was a match, and I said, ‘Thank God!’ and we cried.”

A cause for gratitude

Two days before Thanksgiving, on Nov. 24, 2015, Alejandro Mejia, MD, transplant surgeon on the medical staff at The Liver Institute at Methodist Dallas, removed one of Francisco’s healthy kidneys using the robotic da Vinci® Surgical System. Minutes later, transplant surgeon Richard Dickerman, MD, also on the Institute staff, attached that kidney to Sergio’s blood vessels.

“It’s not about the doctors; it’s about the patients and their donors,” Dr. Mejia says. “We cannot get the word out enough to become a donor, especially to family members. It really is the difference between life and death.”

Days after transplantation, Sergio already had more energy, and by Christmas, the brothers were feeling back to normal.

“We were close, but now we are even closer,” Sergio says. “I tell Francisco he’ll get to see his kidney at work all the time.”

From the spring 2016 edition of Shine magazine