My Kidney Donation Story: Jonathan Calixto
I didn’t know much about kidney donation until my dad started dialysis. He had been in kidney failure for almost two years.
I was at one of the appointments with him and the doctor mentioned getting put on the waiting list for a kidney. He also mentioned the option of finding a living donor.
The minute I heard that, I immediately knew that I wanted to be his donor. I had a lot of doubts about whether I would be accepted, though. Being queer and Latino, there were a lot of times when I wasn’t even allowed to donate blood.
My younger brother and I both wanted to do it, but I was the older brother so I wanted to be tested first. After a few months of testing, I was finally approved and I donated on March 29, 2023.
We started the process in 2021, so there was a pretty big time gap and a few hurdles in between. Part of the reason was that they had to make sure my dad was in good enough condition to get a transplant. He also had to have a procedure done on his heart, then he had to wait for six months after that.
Also, he had to switch insurance providers, and the transplant center we were at didn’t take the new insurance, so we had to transfer to a different transplant center and start the testing all over again. It ended up being a blessing because the new center was Mount Sinai and they were wonderful.
Even before my surgery, they were so incredible in helping me understand what I would need after the surgery. I wasn’t really planning to tell anybody about it, but they emphasized that you really need to lean on your friends and the people in your circle. They repeated that to me often to make sure I would be well taken care of once I left the facility. I ended up taking their advice, and that helped start a lot of conversations with family and friends.
After the surgery, they took me to the recovery room and when my dad’s surgery was done they put him right next to me. They were really nice to do that. I got to see him and make sure he was OK. Those small things really make it more of a human interaction, and I was so grateful.
My dad and I had the surgery on the same day. All the way up until I went into surgery, we had our beds right next to each other. I’ve never seen him so vulnerable, but we had each other and we were going to put our confidence in these doctors and we felt good about that.
After recovery, the surgeon came to see me as well as the nurses and coordinators. By the next morning, they had me walking and I was able to walk over to my dad’s room. I left that same afternoon.
The first two weeks after the surgery were the hardest because I feel like everything you do uses your core, and you don’t really realize that. Aside from the pain, my appetite was good and everything else was fine. After three weeks, I was starting to feel much better, and after five or six weeks I was back to work. Now, nine months later, I would say I’m about 90% back to normal.
To anyone thinking of donating a kidney, I would say to trust the process. I know a big fear of mine and my family was that I wouldn’t be able to live a normal life with one kidney. What I learned was that they will not let you have the surgery if you won’t be OK. Be honest about your health conditions and know that they will make the best judgment for you.
I would also add that if you are Latino, there are resources to help you. There are nurses that speak Spanish and it’s really open to all languages. As a queer donor, I would say that in some ways, the medical community hasn’t been accepting of us in the past. But as someone who has gone through the process and been honest about my sexual orientation and been accepted, I would say that we can be accepted and be heroes too.
About the Author
Jonathan Calixto is a multimedia journalist from The Bronx, New York. In his work at BronxNet TV, BELLA Magazine, and on social media, he covers lifestyle, LGBTQ+ topics, fashion and trends. He also hosts his own podcast, “Inspire Your Inner Boss,” speaking with people about what inspires them and how they define being a boss. In 2023, Jonathan became a kidney donor for his father, Jose Calixto.