Superintendent returns after kidney transplant

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Less than six weeks after undergoing a kidney transplant, Belen Superintendent Ron Marquez watched the machine that filtered his blood for almost three years taken away.

Abigail R. Ortiz-News-Bulletin photo: Belen Superintendent Ron Marquez returned to work full time last week on the six-week anniversary of his kidney transplant. Marquez is now focusing on taking it slow and recovering from the surgery.

With that chapter coming to a close in Marquez’s life, he’s now focusing on recovering from his kidney transplant, which he underwent in mid-June, and taking it easy.

The Belen resident leaned back in his black office chair, laughing with school staff on his first full day back to work last week.

His new kidney, added next to his two existing kidneys, has brought color to his face and an increase in energy, said Cynthia Moya, the superintendent’s administrative assistant.

“I’m so glad it’s over,” Moya said.

Although Marquez is slowly transitioning back into the swing of things, he meets with doctors for weekly checkups, where they analyze how well his body is adapting to his new kidney.

He also takes a myriad of anti-rejection pills, listed over two pages. But Marquez said he would much rather do these things than spend three hours, six days a week, on a home hemodialysis machine.

“You have to block that time and you really can’t do anything — you can’t go places, and it’s even if you decided to stay overnight, you have to plan well in advance for the treatments,” he said. “There were times when we would wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning to get it done.”

Marquez’s staff even popped into his office throughout the day, double-checking that he took his medicine, Moya said.

To counteract the weight Marquez could gain from anti-rejection medications that create a false appetite, he walks around his neighborhood every morning with his wife, Karen, for about 30 minutes. The daily exercise routine has dropped him down to the “lightest” weight he’s been in about five years.

“(The doctors) really scare you. One of the things they tell you because of the anti-rejection medicine is, ‘You’re going to put on weight and might put on up to 100 pounds,’” he said. “So I weigh myself everyday.”

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 4 chronic kidney disease.

Doctors instructed him to watch his diet, but five months later, his kidney function dropped to 7 percent. At that point, Marquez became a candidate for dialysis.

Marquez’s cousin, Glenda Inda, was named as his perfect donor match last year.

Almost two weeks after undergoing his kidney transplant, blood tests revealed Marquez’s creatine level spiked — an early sign of rejection.

“Apparently your level of creatine can tell you how your kidneys are functioning. What you want is for your creatine level to be at a low level. Mine went from a 3 to 3.8 overnight and, at one point, it was a 6,” Marquez said.

He was immediately admitted into Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, where he underwent a series of four evasive antibody replacement treatments.

“The antibodies in my blood were realizing there was a foreign object in my body, so the way (the doctors) put it is that they gave me ‘dumb’ antibodies,” he said laughing.

What doctors failed to tell Marquez was that 55 percent of most transplants show signs of early rejection.

“For people who do this all the time its kind of commonplace,” Moya said. “They expect 50 percent rejection, so they know what to do. It’s no big deal to them, but to the recipient, they’re kind of freaking out.”

The third-year superintendent didn’t start to feel a physical difference with his new kidney until about the fifth week after the transplant.

“For four weeks, I was kind of like, ‘What did I do?’” he said.

“Even from Monday until today (Thursday), I can see a difference in my signature.

“Monday it was shaky and today it was a lot calmer, the tremor subsided.”

While in staff meetings, catching up with the district’s happenings, Marquez said he jokingly apologized to his colleagues for not having more bathroom breaks before.

“I was on dialysis for three years, and if I went to the restroom one or two times, that was a lot,” he said.

Moya added that she stopped Marquez when she saw him scurry out of the office, asking him where he was going. The bathroom, he said.

“I said, ‘Oh, yeah. I forgot you can do that now.’ I’m not used to him taking potty breaks,” she said, giggling.


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