For Orlando, life is about new beginnings. Born with end stage renal disease, he died three times the day he was born and was on dialysis as a kid for nearly seven years, three times a week, where he says he spent a lot of time at home waiting for his first kidney.
In 1996, his first fresh start arrived and it was bittersweet. This was the year his grandfather died and he received his first kidney transplant. Orlando believes this timing wasn’t a coincidence and that his grandfather left this world so he could live. His new kidney served him well as he was participating in competitive Tae Kwan Do competitions across the country – living fully and having fun – until 2012 when he said that chapter ended and he was facing kidney failure.
In the best shape of his life, and also in denial, he suddenly found himself sleeping all the time. Everything changed, including his perspective on the gift of life itself. Orlando described himself as “young and dumb” when he admitted he had stopped taking his rejection pills. Now facing the consequences, he had a fistula in his arm, and a catheter in his heart, and was once again waiting for a kidney.
“Dr. Yang did my first transplant so I stuck with him. He’s like a father figure to me. I felt bad for letting him and everyone down. They care and take your life seriously. Everyone treated me so well and they are on top of their game. I will stick with them until I die.”
Becca, who is on Dr. Yang’s team, fought hard to give Orlando a second chance and was another cheerleader in his corner, along with family and friends. Orlando quit smoking and pulled it together so he could live his life to the fullest. When he received the call that he was getting that kidney after many disappointments, it was surreal. On November 18, 2018, his surgery was scheduled. It was another bittersweet moment.
“We’re waiting for my life to start while someone else is in another room waiting for their life to end. That messed me up a bit.”
Today, however, Orlando feels amazing; cherishing the life he’s been given and second chances. He’s following the rules and feels strong, now sparring and boxing without any full body contact.
“I take my rejection pills, go to my doctor’s appointments, eat healthier, work out, and avoid doing anything stupid.”
Nine months from the day of his surgery, Orlando married his “rock,” Jennifer, marking yet another new beginning in his life.
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