Eliud Lopez needed an organ transplant when a chronic disease caused irreparable damage to his kidneys and forced him to go on dialysis. His sister was a willing and compatible donor. But Eliud was in Los Angeles, where he lives, and Jacqueline Lopez was in Guatemala, and there appeared to be no way to get the two together.
Three Christmases ago, Eliud, who turned 33 on Dec. 23, the father of two daughters, 9 and 5, was healthy and active, working as a car detailer. But his wife, Antonia, began to notice that his abdomen was swelling. She urged him to go to the doctor, and tests showed that his kidneys were failing and he would need a transplant.
Eliud says other family members - including his mother, who also lives in the city - were tested but ruled out as potential donors. Jacqueline was the best hope, but there was no money to make the trip and transplant happen - until a chance encounter occurred a couple of years ago.
Eliud and Jacqueline's brother, Bryan Compusano, who was a student at Washington Preparatory High School, heard a presentation at the school by Mike Jones. An African-American Christian, Jones received a kidney from a white Muslim donor in a Jewish hospital (Cedars-Sinai) in 2001, shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. After his experience, Jones founded and is President and CEO of the One Miracle Celebration of Life Foundation, which was established to help educate others on how to give the "gift of life" and remain healthy in the process. After meeting Bryan, Jones took an interest in Eliud's situation.
With help from the foundation, a non-profit organization, Jacqueline came to the United States in February, and the transplant operations were performed at Cedars-Sinai on Nov. 28, 2006. Eliud says he and his sister are doing well and she is pleased "because she gave me the gift of life." The transplanted kidney began to function immediately.
Eliud says the family, which includes another brother who lives in the area, will have a special holiday this year. "We're excited because we've been in a tough situation for two-and-a-half years and now my family's happy. Everybody's happy."