Donating a kidney to your father is an ultimate sign of a son’s devotion. However, when Tomas Ramirez’s son, Francisco, volunteered to donate his kidney to help his dad’s health, Tomas felt mixed emotions.

“After I was told that I had major kidney damage and needed a transplant, I had three matches on my donor list,” recalls the 61-old-retiree and former construction inspector. “Then, my youngest son told me that he would be happy to give me his kidney. So, they called my son, and he started doing the tests. I was worried about him. He is a young guy and starting a new life.”

Francisco Ramirez, a well-liked El Monte police officer, didn’t hesitate when he learned that his dad was in need of a donor.

“I was really happy that I could help him out,” Francisco says. “My whole family was very worried about his health. When your father’s life and well-being are concerned, you’ll do anything to help him get better.”

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Tomas first realized that he needed to seek professional medical help in 2010, when he vomited blood one morning. He’d been battling diabetes and taking medication for his dangerously high blood pressure. After he visited a specialist, he was told that he needed to be on dialysis because his kidneys were heavily damaged. That’s when he also signed up to be a kidney recipient at the USC Transplant Institute of Keck Medicine of USC.

“Tomas was limited in what he was able to do because of his commitment to be on dialysis,” recalls Yasir A. Qazi, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine, and medical director of the kidney-pancreas transplant program at Keck Medicine of USC. “Getting that kidney transplant from his son gave him his independence back and gave him the opportunity to do what he couldn’t do on dialysis.”

The operation was performed by Sophoclis P. Alexopoulos, MD and Hamid Shidban, MD and medically directed by Yasir A. Qazi, MD of the kidney-pancreas transplant program at Keck Medicine of USC. It went smoothly, and Tomas was sent home after spending three days at the hospital. He says he will always be grateful to his team of doctors and all of the nurses who took excellent care of him and his son during the surgery and the recovery period.

“They were always there to help me with my concerns about the surgery and any worries I had after the operation,” Tomas notes. “They checked in and were concerned about my diet and meds in the months following the surgery.”

He has visited the hospital many times since his surgery, and each time, he is amazed at how the staff remembers him.

“I was gone for six months, and when I came back, everybody remembered me,” Tomas says. “Everybody calls me by my name and they ask me how my son is doing. They make me feel great.”

Since the surgery, his kidney function and diabetes have improved, his blood pressure is close to normal, and he has an enthusiastic new outlook on life.

I wish I could be as healthy as my son,” Tomas exclaimed. “I want my kidney to last. The doctors told me that if I take good care of my kidney, it could last more than 20 years. I want it to last!”

Francisco has been in perfect health since he donated his kidney to his dad. He continues to exercise regularly, runs marathons and graduated with a Masters degree from Azusa Pacific University. Meanwhile, his dad keeps busy doing some gardening and is trying to lose more weight by sticking to a healthier diet.

Dr. Qazi says Tomas will hopefully have many more years ahead of him thanks to his son’s generous act as long as Tomas continues to have a healthy lifestyle managing his diabetes. “It really altered his life… Everyday, you turn on the news, and you see something bad happening,” he points out. “But here at the hospital, we see people’s lives being saved because of organ donations. It’s the ultimate act of unselfishness that one person can do for his fellow human being.”

By Ramin Zahed