Features | Herald-News

Joliet man finally receives kidney transplant, encourages donation

The need for diverse donors is high.

Noah Tovar stands outside his home on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in Joliet. Tovar received a kidney transplant after being on a waiting list for three years.

It was a long road for Noah Tovar, 43, of Joliet to receive a kidney transplant.

He learned in 2020 that he needed a double transplant – pancreas and kidney. But testing was delayed due to the pandemic. Then a CT scan picked up a spot on his lungs, necessitating a bronchoscopy.

Tovar finally received a kidney transplant Aug. 19. He is uncertain if a pancreas transplant is an option in the future. He knows the two organs often are transplanted together, but that wasn’t possible this time.

“Just the kidney was available,” Tovar said.

Tovar was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in his early 20s and started retaining fluid in 2018 after a bout with kidney stones. He began peritoneal dialysis in September 2019.

His mother, also a diabetic, had gone on dialysis when Tovar was 14 and lived another 14 years. Because of other health concerns, Tovar’s mother never received a kidney, he said in a 2020 Herald-News story.

“I never knew what it was like until I went through it myself,” Tovar said of dialysis.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, Black people represent the largest group of minorities who need an organ transplant, at about 12.8% of the population in 2019.

In 2020, only 27.7% of Black people waiting for a transplant received one, as opposed to 47.6% of white people, according to the Office of Minority Health.

Currently, 28.5% of people waiting for a transplant are Black. But Blacks comprised only 12.9% of organ donors in 2020, the Office of Minority Health said.

“Unfortunately, minorities are in the greatest need of organ transplants, yet they donate at a lower rate,” Secretary of State Jesse White said in a news release in August, when he hosted a virtual National Minority Donor Awareness Month event to promote organ/tissue donation for multicultural communities.

John Block, 26, of Romeoville needs a bone marrow transplant to beat leukemia, he said in a Herald-News story earlier this year. But because Block is multiracial and adopted at birth, finding a good match might be challenging.

A bone marrow transplant is the best chance John Block, 26, of Romeoville (seated, left), has for beating his leukemia. However, because he is multiracial and was adopted at birth, finding a good donor match will be challenging. John Block is pictured with his parents Regina and George Block and brother Joseph Block.

“Some ethnic groups have more complex tissue types than others,” according to the Be The Match website. “So a person’s best chance of finding a donor may be with someone of the same ethnic background.”

Tovar said he was “excited and nervous” when he got the call that a kidney was available.

He actually had passed on the first kidney that became available because the donor had “some issues in his past” and that scared Tovar.

A second kidney became available about six weeks later, but the surgeon didn’t feel it was an ideal match, Tovar said.

A week and a half later, Tovar received the third and final call – except Tovar never heard it.

“It was about 4:45 in the morning, and I was dead asleep. I did not hear the phone ringing,” Tovar said. “Luckily, my wife had just gotten to work. She was my secondary contact, and they called her. And then she kept calling me.”

Tovar said he was “excited and nervous.”

He said the transplant happened the same day. He remembered being taken for surgery at 1 p.m.

“After that, everything just seemed like a blur,” Tovar said.

Tovar came home “about five or six days later” and returned shortly after that, when one of his staples came off and he began leaking fluid and blood, he said. By the time he saw the transplant team, he was running a fever and was readmitted for a couple of days and treated with antibiotics, Tovar said.

“At least I’m able to move around, walk around, without any pain,” Tovar said. “I don’t have any stamina. I have the energy to walk places, but the stamina is just not there yet. They said it would take about four to five months before I’m feeling normal again.”

Noah Tovar stands outside his home on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in Joliet. Tovar received a kidney transplant after being on a waiting list for three years.

Some people might feel dismayed at the amount of medicine they must take after a transplant, but not Tovar. He already was taking quite a bit of medication before the transplant, he said.

“They took me off a lot of those and just replaced them with the anti-rejection medications,” Tovar said.

For instance, Tovar only takes one medicine for high blood pressure instead of three to four, he said. He also no longer takes diuretics.

Unfortunately, since Tovar didn’t receive the pancreas transplant, he’s still diabetic. But he’s thrilled to be off dialysis.

“That’s amazing,” Tovar said. “That’s the best part of it.”

Tovar hopes his story encourages organ donation.

“I just wish that more people would consider being donors,” Tovar said. “Because they definitely save lives.”

Because of the lengthy recovery time, Tovar is unable to work. To donate, visit his GoFundMe page at gofund.me/fefa08ed.