Organ recipients prep for sports competition in Wisconsin - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Organ recipients prep for sports competition in Wisconsin

Nilo Fuentes Nilo Fuentes
Lehua Ho Lehua Ho
"I get road rage now", Fuentes laughed. "I get road rage now", Fuentes laughed.

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

EWA BEACH (HawaiiNewsNow) - While the world watches the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, a special group of athletes in Hawaii is preparing for Olympic-style competition at the upcoming Transplant Games in Wisconsin.

More than 6,000 people from across the nation competed for medals in a dozen sports at the 2008 Transplant Games. The event celebrates the fitness and well-being of kidney, heart, bone marrow, and other organ and tissue recipients.

Each time Nilo Fuentes grabs his tennis racket and steps foot on the court, he knows just how lucky he is.

"My body is like 100%, not like really tired like that, yeah," he said.

In 2004, the father of two was served devastating news. His kidneys were shutting down. Hooked up to a dialysis machine three days a week, five to six hours at a stretch, the multi-sport athlete felt his life was slipping away.

"I felt really down and everything was all negative with me," Fuentes said.

Enter an unlikely hero.  Lehua Ho, the sister of Fuentes' former girlfriend, was a match and, without a second thought, offered him one of her kidneys.

"It was just a natural reaction," she said. "My step mom had a kidney transplant a while ago."

With her own son just 10 years old at the time, not everyone in her family supported her selfless decision.

"They were worried that if something happened to me, what was going to happen with him," the living donor said. "But I come from a very big family, so I knew somebody would take care of him."

Three-and-a-half years after the successful three-hour transplant operation, the kidney recipient is thriving. He's the tennis coach at Campbell High School, and is among 35 organ recipients in Hawaii preparing for the Transplant Games in Wisconsin this summer. Fuentes, 43, plans to compete in tennis and golf.

"There's no words that can really express, you know, to know that you were the reason why he can now live such a healthier life," Ho said.

"I wish and pray that there's more people like this in the world 'cause what Lehua did, what Lehua did to me was really a blessing," Fuentes said.

The soft-spoken Fuentes says a little of Ho's outspoken nature came with her kidney.

"I get road rage now," he said while laughing.

The 35-member team from Hawaii is still raising money for its travel expenses. If you'd like to donate, visit http://kidneyhi.org/transplant-games.asp.

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