A tale of two kidneys
For the first time in eight years, Beth Pepples, of Fort Dodge, is speaking publicly about donating one of her kidneys to Gomez Lara, who also lives in Fort Dodge.
“Right now is the time to do it,” Pepples said. “For Andy and for all the others out there.”
Andy, Lara’s 50-year-old son who lives in Iowa City, is in the same situation he was in eight years ago: Andy Lara needs a kidney.
Until now, Pepples has only told family and close friends about donating her kidney to Gomez Lara. But now she wants to spread awareness about how easy it is to donate.
When Lara’s kidneys were failing nine-and-a-half years ago, his whole family volunteered to donate to him.
However, no one passed the tests because of the family’s history of diabetes.
While Lara’s wife, Joan Lara, was asking friends at her church, First Presbyterian Church in Fort Dodge, Pepples volunteered to help.
“I thought it would be a million-to-one,” Gomez Lara said. “But Beth said, ‘I got two. I’ll give him one.'”
For the kidney donor, the process is simple, Pebbles said.
After going through tests, Pepples was a match – she just had to lose 20 pounds.
“I called him and said, ‘you got a fat donor,'” Pepples said, laughing.
Once she was 20 pounds lighter and ready for surgery, they both agreed on a date.
On July 20, 2006, they both went in for surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
“It went beautifully,” Pepples said. “There were absolutely no complications.”
Pepples was only in the hospital for three days. She was told to take a full week off work, so she did.
Gomez Lara said she probably would have been back to work sooner if she wasn’t told to take the week off.
Because of Pepples’ kidney, Gomez Lara has been able to live.
He is now 70.
“I think of the times I’ve had with my grandkids and wife,” he said.
He has also traveled to the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Germany and Mexico.
“If I would have died -and I was that close – I would never have saw any of that,” he said. “I get a second chance at life and a continuation of life.”
Now his son is in the same situation. Andy Lara’s kidneys are failing and he’s on dialysis every night.
“Now we’re kind of repeating the same problems and issues,” Joan Lara said. “It’s the same story over again.”
The same family members are willing to donate, but they can’t.
They’ve been trying to find a donor, but haven’t been able to find one.
They are hoping to spread awareness about how easy it is to donate a kidney, they said.
“It’s truly giving someone the gift of life,” Joan Lara said.
She said no one should be afraid to be tested.
You can only donate if you are completely healthy, she said.
It also shouldn’t cost anything for the donor, they said.
Gomez Lara’s insurance covered all of Pepples’ expenses.
“Gomie took care of everything for me,” Pepples said. “I had no out-of-pocket expenses.”
She also said she was surprised she was only out of work for a week.
Gomez Lara was also surprised with how quickly he recovered too, he said.
He woke up at 5 a.m. the day after the surgery and was walking throughout the hospital.
“They said you gotta walk as much as possible,” he said. “I ran into a few doctors, they looked at me, and they said ‘keep it up.'”
Later that day he even went outside.
“I couldn’t hardly believe that,” Joan Lara said. “So we walked outside and he called his mom and boys and told everyone he was sitting outside.”
Throughout the ordeal, doctors kept telling the two families how unusual it was for Lara’s donor not to be a family member.
“All the times we were up there, the doctors were amazed we had a friend – the lady from our church,” Joan Gomez said. “Because it’s not unusual for family members to stand up to the plate.”
Pepples said she wishes she could donate another kidney to Andy Lara, but she only has one left.
The family is in desperate need of another kidney, Joan Lara said.
“I know he would be as good of a recipient as Gomez is,” Pepples said. “Andy has a full life ahead of him.”