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Wife donates kidney to husband and celebrate baby girl’s first birthday

IU Health University Hospital

Wife donates kidney to husband and celebrate baby girl’s first birthday

She helped save her husband’s life and recently Valentina Nadales celebrated another new life – a daughter.

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

It was more than she thought imaginable. Valentina Nadales gave her husband, Frederic Manzanares, the gift of life. Two years later, they welcomed a baby girl.

They met on Nadales’ birthday, December 18th. It was two weeks before Manzanares was scheduled to leave Nadales’ native homeland, Venezuela. Manzanares had been there for work. For two and half years, the couple pursued a long-distance relationship – making trips back and forth between the United States and Venezuela.

Nadales, 31, moved to the United States in August of 2013 and the couple exchanged wedding vows a year later. They married in Key Largo, Fla. and celebrated on the beach with family and friends. Manzanares, 54, was born in Mexico and moved to Florida at the age of 15.

He was healthy most of his life, but in 2000 he was diagnosed with Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a rare disease that affects the filters of the kidneys. Over time, the autoimmune disease damaged his kidney. He also had cancer that resulted in the removal of his right kidney.

“At that point, I had only 30 percent kidney function. When they removed the kidney, I only had 11 percent kidney function and I knew it was time for a transplant,” said Manzanares, who was in the care of IU Health nephrologist Dr. Muhammad Yaqub.

Six years ago, the couple welcomed their first child, Sebastian. They went through the process of determining if Nadales was a match, all the while hoping they could one day expand their family of three.

People who wish to donate a kidney go through a screening process that includes working with a team of caregivers – surgeons, nephrologists, anesthesiologists, a living donor transplant coordinator, psychiatrists or psychologists, social workers, dieticians, pharmacists and financial coordinators.

After an initial screening, Nadales underwent an evaluation process to determine that she was a match. Part of that evaluation included testing for compatible blood types, a chest x-ray, urine test, EKG, CT scan, cancer screening and pulmonary function screening.

More than 100,000 people across the country are currently on a waiting list for a lifesaving organ transplant. The majority of those on the list are in need of kidney transplant, followed by liver, pancreas, heart, and lung. Indiana residents can register to become organ donors through www.RegisterMe.org.

Last year, IU Health ranked among the top 20 transplant centers in the United States. In 2021, more liver transplants were performed since 2005 and more kidney transplants were performed since 2007. IU Health’s kidney transplant program is the largest and most experienced transplant program in Indiana, performing more than 250 kidney and kidney/pancreas transplants annually.

On Sept. 4, 2019, Nadales was in one operating room and her husband was in another. She was a match. Manzanares was in the care of IU Health transplant surgeon Dr. William Goggins.

“After surgery I told him to wait for me before he went to his room and I wanted to walk to his room,” said Nadales. Fourteen days after surgery, Nadales posted a photo on social media. She was smiling and holding a coffee mug that read: “Proud kidney donor.” The couple also posted a photo wearing t-shirts – Nadales’ shirt read: “He’s wearing my kidney.” Manzanares’ shirt read: “I’m wearing her kidney.” The back of the shirts read: “We’re a perfect match.” Their son’s shirt read: “Proud of them.”

She chronicled their journey with photos of them in the hospital and captions that read: “My kidney. Our new life.”

“When we were making the decision for me to be a donor we talked to the doctors. They knew I wanted another child and they said it shouldn’t be an issue but to wait one year after surgery so my body could learn to work with one kidney.”

Two years after Manzanares’ transplant, the couple welcomed a baby girl, Samantha. “It was considered a high risk pregnancy but amazingly my kidney function was better then that it does now,” said Nadales.

Since the transplant, Manzanares said he enjoys his restored health – working on projects around his home, traveling with his family and watching his children grow up.

“People ask why I did it and I say, ‘because of Sebastian.’ I did not want him to grow up without a father,” said Nadales. And now they have two children who need their father.

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