Superintendent to receive new kidney

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For Belen Schools Superintendent Ron Marquez, it’s almost routine. Six days a week, he jumps onto a home hemodialysis machine for almost three hours to filter and clean his blood — a task his kidneys can no longer undertake alone.

Abigail R. Ortiz-News-Bulletin photo: Belen Schools Superintendent Ron Marquez is preparing for a kidney transplant from his first cousin, Glenda Inda, after more than a year of home hemodialysis treatments.

But in the next couple of months, it will be something of the past, which is odd since it’s been incorporated into his and his wife, Karen’s, lives for more than a year.

“It’ll be nice when I get to the point where ‘guess what, I don’t have anything that I have to do tonight,’ or ‘I can go somewhere else, because I don’t have to do dialysis,” he said.

The Belen superintendent sat in his office flipping through paperwork and answering emails in January when he got a startling phone call.

“You have a relative, Glenda Vallejos, who’s calling for you,” Marquez’s secretary announced over the phone intercom.

Marquez hadn’t heard from his first cousin, now Glenda Inda, in more than 20 years. He thought a family member had passed away or there was a family emergency.

“Glenda, is everything OK?” he asked.

“Yeah, I just thought I’d let you know you no longer have to think of dialysis,” she responded.

“What are you talking about?” he said.

“I was talking to our uncle Joe, who lives in Albuquerque, and he told me about your kidney disorder and how you were on dialysis,” she said.

“I’m 52 years old and I don’t have any kids. I don’t plan on having any kids and we’ve always been very close, and I thought, ‘Why can’t I donate my kidney to you?’”

In Marquez’s disbelief, he almost broke down in tears sitting at his desk.

“Glenda, are you sure? Do you know what this takes?” he asked.

Inda informed Marquez she had undergone all but one test, which later revealed she was a perfect kidney donor match.

“What do you say to people like Glenda, who basically say, ‘I don’t have enough use for my own kidney, so I’ll give it to you.’ I’m still in awe,” he said.

Marquez’s kidney failure was diagnosed in June 2010 after years of not having his high blood pressure under control.

Blood tests revealed his kidneys were functioning at a 13 percent capacity, which pointed to the underlying cause — Marquez suffered from Stage IV chronic kidney disease.

With chronic kidney disease, an individual’s kidneys stop filtering blood by removing waste products and extra fluid through urine, according to WebMD’s website.

Built up waste in the blood, commonly caused by high blood pressure, creates kidney damage over time.

To improve Marquez’s condition, doctors instructed him to watch his diet, but five months later, Marquez’s kidney function dropped to only 7 percent. At that point, he became a candidate for dialysis.

While Marquez and Karen searched for a dialysis clinic, a doctor informed the couple about home hemodialysis treatments, where dialysis could be done at home.

Deciding to take this route, the couple learned how to operate and trouble shoot the machine that would function as Marquez’s kidneys.

After more than a year of treatments, Marquez began a series of medical exams to discover if he would be a good candidate for a kidney transplant.

“The good news is that I still have kidney function, but its extremely low,” Marquez said. “It hasn’t gotten any worse, but I don’t see it getting any better either.”

Karen, the couple’s children and Marquez’s brother and sisters were nixed as donors due to medical problems or not being the right match.

“My immediate family was out of the picture,” he said. “We had talked to others, but it’s very odd. How do you say to somebody, ‘Hey, I need a kidney.’”

There was no hesitation behind donating a kidney to Marquez once Inda, a Belen native, learned about Marquez’s health problems.

The Belen High School 1976 graduate didn’t tell Marquez she was undergoing a series of medical exams to discover if her kidney was a match until before the last test.

“I didn’t want to tell him until I knew we were a match,” Inda said. “I didn’t want to get his hopes up.”

Becoming a donor through the Presbyterian Kidney Transplant Center was a painless process, she said.

“After going through this whole process, I couldn’t imagine not giving it to someone else if it didn’t work with Ronald,” she said. “I’m healthy and blessed to be healthy, so why not?”

After learning Marquez had a donor, he hit a bump in the road. Doctors told him he needed to drop about 15 pounds in order to have the transplant.

Losing weight would allow for a higher surgery success rate and counteract the weight he could gain from taking anti-rejection medication after the transplant.

Marquez was hoping to have the surgery and six weeks of recovery behind him by the beginning of the 2012-13 school year.

“I figured I was going to be ready to go and see school off the ground in August and be ready to go,” he said. “Well, now its past mid-June and I need to drop those 10 or 15 pounds.”

To prepare for the surgery, Marquez has been counting calories, monitoring food portions and incorporating more fruits and vegetables into his daily diet.

At times, adding healthier foods to his diet can back fire, since his body will accumulate certain minerals from those foods that he can’t flush out through his kidneys.

He plans on adding exercise to his routine by logging more time walking or on a stationary recumbent bike at home.

Until Marquez drops the pounds, Inda is waiting to book the next flight to Albuquerque for the transplant.

“I’m just ready to go and just waiting,” she said.

Inda introduced Marquez to the woman he would date throughout middle school, high school and later marry.

“Talk about true childhood sweethearts,” Inda said.

The two met during an Our Lady of Belen Fiestas when Marquez and his family traveled to Belen from Cebolleta for the celebrations and to spend time with Inda’s family.

Ron and Karen hit it off and kept in contact over long distance phone calls and family visits.

After meeting his wife, Marquez was drawn to the community of Belen. In 1995, he became a part of the Hub City by receiving the principal position at Belen High School.

Over Marquez’s 18-year career with the district, he has been principal at Rio Grande Elementary before moving on to director of human resource and then advancing to the superintendent position.

By working at a job he loves, Marquez is giving Belen’s next generation a future, Inda said.

“He’s paid it forward 10 times over and it’s time to pay it back to him,” she said. “That’s what family does.”

When asked if Marquez is considering retirement after receiving the transplant, he answers quickly.

“No, I don’t think so. Not yet,” he said. “I’m still having some fun and there’s a lot of good things going on and there’s still a lot of work that needs to get done.”


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.