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The big switch

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunThe Nieves family sits on the front steps of their Truckee home.
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Less than two weeks after his wife donated the kidney that will hopefully save his life, Truckee residents Martin and Michelle Nieves are back at home and making strong recoveries.

“I feel totally different,” Martin said. “Before the transplant, I would feel all these weird sensations in my body. I would react to food, so my diet was very strict. But now, thanks to my wife, I feel new.”

In December 2005, Martin Nieves, 36, was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease, kidney failure that left the construction worker and father of three so weak he said he could barely swing his hammer.



After learning his condition would require an organ transplant, Nieves sought help from five of his seven siblings. None of their blood types matched. But to doctors’ astonishment, his wife’s did.

Michelle Nieves, 30, and her husband entered the operating ward of the UC Davis Medical Center on May 9. For more than four hours doctors worked to detach one of her kidneys and transfer it into the body of her waiting husband.



“They put two holes in me, one for a camera and one for a tool. They also made an incision on my bikini line. They had to [inflate] my stomach and move all my organs around,” Michelle Nieves said. “When I woke up I was in extreme pain, but as soon as they told me that Martin was doing good, it was all worth it.”

Doctors told the couple that Martin Nieves’ body accepted the new kidney instantly, and he said, aside from the expected pain of surgery, he feels better now than he has in months.

But risks still linger. Martin Nieves’ new organ will remain temperamental and susceptible to infection for about the next 12 months. To avoid infection, Martin was sent home from the hospital with a box of more than a dozen medications to ward off everything from pain to high blood-pressure to stomach acid.

Through it all, the Nieves family is all smiles.

“He was deteriorating so fast in front of me,” Michelle Nieves said. “And to see him back to normal so quickly is just amazing.”


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