Kidney transplant

Alice donates kidney to save husband's life

What Alice Morales remembers most about the months leading up to her husband JC’s kidney transplant surgery is stress.

Alice hugging her husband, JC.
Alice and her husband, JC.

As his kidney function became worse, they and their children were concerned he would have to go on dialysis and might not be able to financially provide for his family. As Alice underwent testing to become a kidney donor, she was under pressure as she struggled to become the right weight for the surgery.

All the stress melted away, however, when JC and his family noticed an immediate improvement in his health just hours after his transplant surgery. “Our lives have changed for the better,” Alice said.

JC was first diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease in 2005. His condition slowly became worse and, in early 2021, he started seeing a transplant nephrologist at the UW Health Transplant Center in Madison, Wisconsin. He and Alice learned the National Kidney Registry offers a kidney exchange program, through which JC could receive a kidney from someone else who was a better match for him than Alice if she, in turn, donated her kidney to a stranger.

They both decided that participating in a kidney exchange was much better than waiting years for a deceased donor kidney.

Still, it took a while for both of them to be in the right health for the surgery. During the wait, the entire family’s spirits fell lower and lower. “All the possible outcomes made everything more stressful,” Alice said. “The last thing I wanted was to lose my husband, and the kids were afraid of losing their dad.”

Both surgeries were scheduled for Dec. 15, 2022—the same day as the couple’s twin 17-year-old daughters’ birthday. JC and Alice were up and walking around the day of their surgery, and Alice was discharged the next day. She stayed in a hotel near the hospital while JC recovered in the hospital. In the meantime, their daughters and 12-year-old son took care of both of them.

Now that the Morales family has returned to their daily life, they are especially grateful for the kidney exchange program, and for JC’s donor, whom they have not met. “They not only affected JC’s life, but also our whole family’s life,” Alice said.