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Former Indiana resident is matched by love; Paired by a kidney

IU Health University Hospital

Former Indiana resident is matched by love; Paired by a kidney

An Indiana native who married the love of his life, recently returned to his home state. The reason: His husband became his kidney donor at IU Health University Hospital.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

From the day they met last August, there wasn’t a moment’s hesitation that their relationship would be long lasting. And when Parker “Reid” Alexander needed a kidney, it was his new husband, Rafael Diaz, who decided to go through testing to become a donor.

Like their relationship, the testing determined that Diaz, 28, was a match.

A native of Russiaville, Ind. Alexander, 24, is a 2016 graduate of Western High School and a 2020 graduate of Indiana University in Bloomington with a degree in fitness and wellness. He is the youngest of five children of Rick and Sherry Tubbs, Kokomo.

Alexander was 17, when he first became a patient at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. His kidneys were failing and he was diagnosed with Alport syndrome. The disease damages tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, leading to kidney failure. It can also cause hearing and eye complications.

After earning his college degree, Alexander moved to Denver. He first thought the move would be temporary but things changed when he met Diaz via the Tinder dating app.

“We were in contact for two weeks and then finally met in person. We hit it off right away and were together every day,” said Alexander. Diaz grew up in Chihuahua, in northwestern Mexico. He moved to Denver two years earlier to study English.

“I love food so we talked a lot about food and movies and went hiking in the mountains,” said Alexander. As a student at IU, Alexander worked at “Social Cantina,” known for its modern Mexican street fare. Their first date was to a local park; their second date was to an authentic taco restaurant.

“He also knew everything about my health going into it,” said Alexander. They’d only known each other a month when he had fistula surgery in preparation for dialysis. As his kidney function began dropping dangerously low, Alexander started dialysis in February 2021. The summer before, he had been listed for transplant and was waiting for a viable donor.

Five months ago, Alexander and Diaz exchanged wedding vows in a park in Littleton, Colo. Afterward, they continued the celebration in Estes Park. It was on their special day that Alexander received a call from IU Health.

“They said they had a kidney but it needed to be transplanted right away. They thought I was still in Indiana,” said Alexander. As he continued to wait for a kidney donor, Diaz witnessed Alexander undergo dialysis – five hours a day, three times a week.

And he made a decision.

“I knew I was the perfect match in every way,” said Diaz. “I never had a doubt. I love him and I wanted to be tested and to give him a kidney. I wanted him to live a full and healthy life,” he said. With a degree in nutrition and experience in global health, Diaz said he was familiar with the donor process and did not hesitate. Working with IU Health’s living donor transplant coordinator Tracy Perry, Diaz began testing as a match.

Alexander worked with IU Health pre-transplant coordinator Shannon Gruber. By July - just three months after their marriage – Alexander and Diaz learned they were a match for transplant.

On August 13th, under the care of IU Health Dr. William Goggins, Alexander received a new kidney from his husband.

“We were on separate floors at the hospital but I wheeled to see him the next day,” said Diaz, who remained hospitalized for three days. Alexander was hospitalized for four days. “We thought we’d only be here for a few weeks but my post transplant coordinator, Christine Gibson, said we could be here three to six months,” said Alexander.

While he continues with his healing, the couple is staying with Alexander’s parents.

“It’s tough with both of us being out of work and far from home, but I am so grateful for this chance and I wouldn’t want to share it with anyone else. We have so much in common it’s crazy how compatible we are and now we share a kidney,” said Alexander.

“I couldn’t receive a ‘thank you’ from him because I love him so much and I want to share a life with him,” said Diaz, adding: “And I wanted him to have my kidney because I know my kidney.”

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