Already close, brothers’ bond cemented by kidney donation

Kidney transplant
Antonio Delgado (left, holding his son, Matthew) didn’t have to think twice about donating a kidney to his brother David, who holds his own son, Sebastian. The brothers underwent transplant surgery at UT Southwestern last year; their sons were born 16 days apart.

By Jeff Carlton

David Delgado was working full time during the day and going to school at night — even as his failing kidneys forced him to spend four hours a day on dialysis and left him aching to his bones.

Then his younger brother stepped forward. Antonio Delgado’s decision to become a living kidney donor saved David’s life.

A year after the successful transplant surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center, the brothers are thriving.

They’re also both first-time fathers to two boys born a couple of weeks apart, a turn of events Antonio Delgado calls “a blessing.” Their wives were both about two months pregnant when the men underwent transplantation surgery in November 2010.

David Delgado said he was aware of UT Southwestern’s reputation as “one of the best hospitals in the nation” and was relieved that his personal physician referred him to its kidney transplant team.

 “This is what we’re here for,” said Dr. Rebecca Rojas, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine. “It makes me think: ‘This is why I went into this field. This is why I do this.’”

The site of the first successful kidney transplant in Texas, UT Southwestern today remains a national leader in the field of kidney transplantation. Its one-year survival rate of 97 percent and three-year survival rate of 94 percent are among the best in the nation, according to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients.

In 2009, David Delgado was an otherwise healthy 29-year-old man, working a day job as a technician at a company that makes ignition interlock devices while also pursuing a degree by night in criminal justice. Though his schedule was hectic, he felt far more tired than seemed appropriate. His face and limbs looked and felt swollen.

He was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, a disease in which abnormal deposits of a certain type of protein cause inflammation and can prevent the kidneys from functioning properly. Dialysis was an option, but a kidney transplant offered better long-term survival rates and a better quality of life.

In stepped kid brother.

“I was up for it. I’m younger and better suited for this kind of surgery,” Antonio Delgado said. “I wanted to help. I didn’t want to see my brother like that.”

David said his brother’s willingness amazed him.

“He told me he was my brother and he would do anything for me,” David Delgado said. “He didn’t hesitate. He told me, ‘Where do I need to go, and who do I need to talk to?’”

The UT Southwestern team of caregivers included Dr. Rojas and Dr. Christopher Yu-Hua Lu, Professor of Internal Medicine. David Delgado considers his recovery nothing short of remarkable.

“I feel better when I wake up in the morning,” he said. “I don’t feel tired all the time. After a meal, I don’t want to throw up. My bones don’t hurt.”

After the transplant, there was even better news. Although Antonio Delgado knew his wife was pregnant, David Delgado and his wife were unaware that they also had a baby on the way.

On June 8, Sebastian David Delgado was born to David and his wife, Martha. On June 24, Sebastian’s cousin Matthew Antonio Delgado was born to Antonio and his wife, Jennifer.

David Delgado said he doesn’t know if he ever will be able to thank his younger brother properly for donating his organ.

“I just try to spend time with him,” he said. “Since we both have little boys, it’s going to be even better.”