George Lopez Finds a Perfect Match
When the comedian needed a new kidney, his wife, Ann, donated one of her own.
Clues to Kidney Disease continued...
Latinos are twice as likely as whites to develop diabetes, according to the
National Kidney Foundation, putting them at greater risk for kidney disease as
well. An estimated 13% of the Latino population has been diagnosed with
diabetes. Many more have the disease and don't know it.
"The people who come to see me do stand-up, they never go to the
doctor," George says of the many Latinos in the audience at his comedy
shows. "I tell them, you need to go! You need to get your blood checked.
That can tell you so much."
Minorities in general are often hesitant to see a doctor, says surgeon
Charles Modlin, MD, director of the Minority Men's Health Center at The
Cleveland Clinic. Modlin, one of only a few African American transplant
surgeons in the United States, describes the attitude of many African Americans
and Latinos this way: "If you're feeling fine, there's no reason to get
tested. And if you hurt, you grin and bear it."
George agrees. "That's the one thing I'd change about Latinos --- we
don't want to know if it's bad news," he says. "Me? I'd go to the
doctor in a minute now."
Moving Toward a Kidney Transplant
Crippling pain finally spurred George to get a long-overdue checkup. A hard
lesson, it's one he now shares with others on his web site, on his television
show, and as a spokesman, along with Ann, for the National Kidney
As George worked on the show and awaited his operation, Ann took a battery
of tests to prove what she already knew in her heart to be true: that as a
donor, she was a match for her husband. She also hired a personal trainer to
help her get into the best shape possible before the operation. A year later,
and 15 pounds lighter, she continues with the trainer three days a week.
Transplant success rates, Modlin says, have gone up dramatically in the last
10 years. So, too, have the number of living donors like Ann. That's a welcome
development, he says, because such kidneys tend to function better than those
from deceased donors.
George sticks to his daily regimen of medications to ensure that his body
does not reject Ann's kidney, some of which he will take for the rest of his
life. He stays faithful to his monthly doctor appointments, exercises more, and
has cut out fast food.
"I weighed 235 pounds when I found out I needed a new kidney," says
the 6-foot Lopez. "Now I weigh 190."
Though the operation was a complete success --- Ann calls it "the dream
transplant" --- it came with some side effects. One of the medications that
George takes causes occasional hand tremors, making simple things, such as
lifting a glass of water, frustrating and difficult. Those tremors also make it
harder to play golf, a game that is sacred to the comedian.