Victor’s face lights up when he talks about his homeland’s cuisine. “If you ever visit Mexico, you’ll be spoiled by the delicious food. For a long time, I made the mistake of eating dishes that were wonderful to taste — but not so good for my health,” he says. Diagnosed with diabetes in his mid-40s, he admits he didn’t always pay attention to his diet. “And I always struggled with tracking my glucose. I hated the finger pricks,” he adds. “Together, my diabetes and high blood pressure slowly destroyed my kidneys.”
Victor spent 30 years as an elementary, high school, and university educator and school administrator in Guadalajara, Mexico. When he retired in 2010, he moved his family to central Pennsylvania to teach at Vida Charter School, a bilingual school in Gettysburg. “The community was incredibly welcoming to us. This is an amazing, friendly place — a perfect choice to raise our family,” he says.
In 2016, Victor was diagnosed with kidney disease and told he was at high risk for renal failure.
Two years later, he began peritoneal dialysis and retired from teaching in 2019. “I became very tired and depressed. I wanted to stop the dialysis but my wife kept me going,” he says. “She’s the reason I continued.”
On Oct. 16, 2021, Victor received his first — and only — call to come to the hospital for a possible deceased-donor kidney. “It was a match and almost overnight, I felt like a new person,” he says. “And I am so grateful for the gift of life my donor gave me. Although we never met, I pray for him and thank him every single day.”
Victor has high praise for his transplant surgeon, Danielle Ladie, MD, and the UPMC Harrisburg Kidney Transplant Services team. “Their professionalism and the great compassion they have for their patients is amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it,” he says. Victor also credits the team for getting him a permanent sensor to monitor and better regulate his blood sugar levels. He also dutifully measures his blood pressure every morning and night.
Today, one of Victor’s favorite pastimes is to visit a creek near his home to relax and listen to the water. Occasionally, his grandchildren will join him; other times, he’ll bring along his guitar to play. “In college, I was part of a small band of students who would serenade their girlfriends, just like they do in Spain,” he says. “I played and sang for my girlfriend then — and after 44 years of marriage, we are still together.”