Imagine the horror, if you would, of being given these two options in life — either have a kidney transplant or face the prospects of having kidney dialysis for the rest of your life. Such was the scenario Michael Cordoba faced, thanks to an ailment he developed when he was a youngster.
“My urethra tube tightened,” he says. “I was 3 when it started.”
But it wasn’t until he was around 18 that it became an issue. He felt a tightness whenever he’d go to the bathroom. And the tightness, unfortunately, damaged his kidneys.
But they still functioned enough for survival. It wouldn’t be until they were down to around 8% function that he’d have to consider a transplant or dialysis. And then it all became a reality in early 2018. Doctors told Cordoba it was time. He needed to start thinking about a transplant. Dialysis would be the interim solution and his wife, Alexis, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Kearny’s Franklin School would learn to administer the dialysis.
By doing so, Alexis would ensure there was as little interruption to the family’s life as possible. After all, the couple have two young sons — so it made the most sense.
Meanwhile, the Cordobas reached out to David, Michael’s youngest brother, who still lives in Jersey. He wasn’t married. He was in great physical shape. And if he were a match, it would lead to the least disruption of everyday life. And he wouldn’t have to travel far for potential surgery.
But as luck would have it, David wasn’t a match. They didn’t have the same blood type, an instant disqualifier. Still, there were other factors that precluded David, even if the two had had the same blood type.
“I thought, oh my gosh, this really does mean dialysis for the rest of his life,” Alexis says.
But hold on a moment. Enter Will Cordoba, Michael’s oldest brother. He lives in Plantation, Florida, more than 1,000 miles away from the area. It was he who told the couple he wanted to be tested. So he flew up from South Florida, had a battery of tested performed.
And by the grace of God, he was a 98% match — enough to be a kidney donor to his brother.
“We used to think families would be ideal matches, but they told us that doesn’t happen often,” Alexis says. “But we were so fortunate in this case. He was a match.”
A few months would pass before the surgery. Fast forward to Sept. 5, 2018. It was time. The transplant would take place at St. Barnabas Hospital in Livingston. Will took an unpaid leave of absence for the transplant. (One might think an employer would be gracious enough to offer paid leave here, but it’s not required in Florida and it didn’t happen.)
On the day of the transplant, Alexis says she told Michael something important.
“I said, ‘You’ll be taking a nap — and then come back to me,’” she says she said at the time.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh, great,’” Michael says. “Not too much pressure.”
But there was no reason for worry here. Will went under first as the donor always does. His portion went flawlessly, though Alexis says it seemed like an eternity. Michael was next. And hours after he was wheeled into the surgery theater, or operating room, doctors came to Alexis and family to give her the best possible news.
The transplant was a complete success, flawless. The new kidney took — and Michael was going to be fine. Nearly one year later, the same may still be said.
“I hugged the doctor after,” Alexis says. “He must have been like, ‘OK.’”
Michael, after waking up, immediately said, “See, I came back to you. It’s over.”
Michael would face some challenges post-op. He would, of course, be required to take a ton of medications, 17 of them, three for the rest of his life, including anti-rejection meds. Sometimes, the human body, for whatever the reason, rejects the transplanted organ. But not in the case.
Throughout it all, Michael says there was one person who kept him going more than others.
“She was my rock,” he says of wife Alexis. “She kept positive throughout.”
Will was back to work a few weeks later. Michael would return to Verizon, where he’s worked in an office for 22 years, in February. Not bad, considering the trauma his body went through.
His feelings for his brother …
“We were always close, we had a normal upbringing,” Michael says of Will. “But I couldn’t ask for anything better. I couldn’t ask for a better brother. He is my hero.”
Since the transplant, the Cordobas say life for Michael has changed, dramatically.
“I have so much more energy,” he says. They both say it was after surgery when they realized just how much Michael had experienced before-hand. He wasn’t himself for such a long time. Btu that didn’t matter anymore. It was all in the past. There’s a great future for the Cordoba family that lies ahead.
“Family means everything to me,” Michael says.
And thanks to his family, Will Cordoba specifically, there’s a long life ahead for everyone.
One year after the transplant, the proof couldn’t be more clear.
Learn more about the writer ...
Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.