Richard Perez is an American Transplant Foundation Mentor for our 1+1=LIFE Mentorship Program. This article shows how he’s also gone above and beyond at his transplant hospital to serve patients. Incredible story!
“Waiting for an organ can be a long and stressful process for many transplant candidates. But recovering from a transplant, can be even harder.
Many who go through it begin to wonder, what’s next?
Transplant candidates can end up waiting months before receiving a new organ that could save their life. Richard Perez waited ten before he went under the knife for a new liver at Strong Hospital in 2003.
“Six months later, I recovered; fully recovered,” he recalls. “I came back and signed up to be a volunteer. This is where we come in, and give support to families and new candidates.”
Twelve years later and now retired, Perez has dedicated nearly 5,000 hours to the Transplant Unit. His role brings him close to patients and their families going through the transplant process, and he isn’t just a volunteer.
Perez is the Head Volunteer, spending four days a week paying it forward and continuing to honor the donor who saved his life.
Most importantly, he wants to set an example for current candidates and recipients.
“I want them to see a survivor, you know? that is all there, that is standing tall, that is well-managed and healthy so they can see that,” he attests. “That is the key to recovery.”
When Perez was recovering, there weren’t many volunteers. But after he started, he was asked to recruit more for heart and kidney patients.
He proved up for the task.
Perez now has a group of a dozen steady volunteers established in the Solid Organ Transplant Unit. And he isn’t the only volunteer at Strong who’s a former recipient; several of them are.
That’s a what helps make it easier on the patients to connect with them. Even for patients like Randall Brooke, whose already been through it all before. He just received his second liver transplant. He feels being able to ask questions the doctors may not have answers for, is very helpful.
“It kind of gave you a little bit of a clue as to what to expect and where you’re headed. You know, within reason,” he explains. “They’re not medical [professionals] so they can’t say too much. But at least it gives you a sense of ease so you’re not just wondering.”
“They’re happy to see somebody that survived,” says Perez. “That’s what actually tickles me to come back. It makes me feel good to know that it’s working.”
This is especially important because, for some patients, the recovery is even harder than the waiting.
“I don’t think any candidate for an organ can do this by themselves. They need the support of their loved ones, and that’s why we have our loved ones that can help those that are around,” he explains.
Perez and his team of volunteers stress the only way to make it easier on the front end is for more people to donate organs and pass on their life to those who need it most.”