Truckee man turns to wife for kidney and life |

Truckee man turns to wife for kidney and life

Christine Stanley
Sierra Sun
Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra SunMichelle and Martin Nieves sit in their Truckee home on Wednesday.

Martin Nieves’ seven siblings couldn’t help save his life, but now his wife just might be the one to do so.

Nieves, 30, was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease in December of 2005 after enduring six months of weakness, fatigue, internal tingling and muscle twitching. As a local construction worker with no health insurance, a wife and three daughters to feed, visiting a doctor just wasn’t an option.

But finally Nieves had to give in.

“I couldn’t even hammer anymore because I was so weak,” he said.

Double kidney failure without an explanation for cause was not the diagnosis Nieves expected to receive in the emergency room at Tahoe Forest Hospital. He was immediately transferred to Sutter Roseville Medical Center to have a catheter implanted and to begin receiving dialysis. Nieves also learned that, to save his life, he would need an organ transplant.

“His brothers were at the bedside, ready to (donate their kidneys) then and there,” said Martin’s wife, Michelle Nieves.

Five of Martin’s seven siblings were tested to see if they could be donor matches.

“They were almost sure that one of my siblings would match,” Martin said.

Turns out, Martin is the only one of the bunch with type-O blood. The waiting list for a type-O kidney: 4.5 years. The Nieveses were scared.

And then came the unexpected twist. Michelle tested O positive.

“I just (got tested) to say that I did it ” not thinking that it would be me, thinking that it would be his brothers,” Michelle said.

It has been a long couple of months since then. Tahoe Forest Hospital doesn’t offer dialysis, and seeking treatment in Reno would mean giving up the Medicare that Martin now receives. So for the past five months the couple have been driving to DaVita Dialysis in Auburn three to four times each week.

“I’m tired,” Martin said. “When I walk, my joints hurt. My body hurts. It feels like I’m old.”

On May 9, the couple will undergo surgery, perhaps in the same room, at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. Michelle should recover in about six weeks, but for Martin it will take months.

“It worries me a little,” Martin said. “We don’t know for sure that everything is going to be successful. I am most concerned about something happening to [Michelle]. I am afraid.”

But Michelle doesn’t seem to be so worried. She’s eager for the surgery to be done and over so her family can go back to doing the things they love.

“Now that (surgery) is so close, it’s almost exciting,” she said. “I feel privileged to be a part of it ” to change his life.”

There is no guarantee that Martin’s body will accept Michelle’s kidney. If the organ is rejected complications could occur and another new organ would be needed. If the donation is accepted, Martin could be back to work in the fall.

“I just want to get healthy, so I can keep going for my family,” Martin said.

Support Local Journalism

Your support means a better informed community.