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Sister gives brother ultimate gift - Odessa American: Local News

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  • Abby’s gift

    Abby Hernandez and her brother Oscar are pictured after surgery for a kidney transplant. Abby donated one of her kidneys to Oscar in August.

Posted: Sunday, September 20, 2020 5:00 am

After trying, in secret, over a period of years, Abby Hernandez has succeeded in giving her brother the gift of life.

The University of Texas Permian Basin softball player donated one of her kidneys to him in August. Diagnosed at age 2 with nephrotic syndrome, Abby said Oscar got his first kidney at age 16. He had the organ for about three years, but then got put on dialysis for about seven years.

Her whole family had gotten tested, but no one was a match for 27-year-old Oscar. She tried to get tested previously at age 19 without her parents’ consent, but was told she was too young.

The procedure took place Aug. 4 at Las Palmas Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso. A hospital representative said the age range to donate a kidney at their transplant center is 21 to 65.

The Mayo Clinic website says “nephrotic syndrome is a kidney disorder that causes your body to pass too much protein in your urine. Nephrotic syndrome is usually caused by damage to the clusters of small blood vessels in your kidneys that filter waste and excess water from your blood.”

When she turned 21 in February, Abby got tested again, but didn’t tell her parents again. She was a match.

Hernandez told her parents.

“They were happy, but I think they were more concerned and worried because both of their kids were going to go under,” Hernandez said. “... It was definitely a split reaction. They didn’t know how to really feel.”

For her, it’s going to take many more weeks before she recovers. “I would obviously have to take it very slow when I do return back. And as far as my brother, his (recovery) is three to four months. He has to take it very slow and he has way more restrictions than I do. This is his second kidney transplant,” Hernandez said.

Mentally and emotionally, she noted that the procedure is not easy.

“You have to think about it and make sure it’s something you would like to do. I don’t think it was too bad. It was a challenge in the very beginning, but now looking back ... I would really recommend it to anybody. It is an amazing journey,” she said.

As for Oscar, Hernandez said he is recovering very well.

“He actually was recovering better than I was. The doctor said that’s very typical because obviously my body is losing something and his body is gaining something. I had loss of appetite. I had lack of energy, and everything that I was lacking my brother gained. He would eat my leftovers and he would wake up early. He’s doing really good,” Abby Hernandez said.

She said donating her kidney is a blessing and feels that she has fulfilled a purpose.

“I just feel great. I’m grateful to be a part of this big thing because not everybody can be a part of it. I didn’t know I could be a match. My whole family did get tested. It was something they wanted to be a part of, but they weren’t 100 percent a match. I’m just grateful that I was 100 percent match for him,” Abby said.

Abby is the youngest of three siblings and she’s very close to Oscar. Donating her kidney makes them even closer.

If all goes well, Oscar should live a normal life.

“They do lab work almost every other day. His labs are coming out normal; so far so good. Everything’s coming out great. It’s not expected to be rejected,” Hernandez said.

Abby plans to graduate from UTPB with a degree in kinesiology. She said she would like to return to campus in the spring to finish her senior year.

“I don’t know how my body’s going to feel, but mentally I want to go back and I’m ready to go back,” Hernandez said.

The coaches and teammates have been very supportive of Hernandez, who plays second base. When they have team meetings they always call her on Zoom and her teammates call her, as well.

She was told she could return to normal activities, but would have to take it very slowly and make sure she’s not coming into physical contact with others. “But other than that, they said I should be fine to return to play.”

Her softball coach, Tiala Tagaloa, was impressed with Hernandez’ altruism. Hernandez is 5 feet tall, but Tagaloa said in an email that she plays much bigger.

“I don’t know that there are any words to fully encompass what Abby has done for her brother and family. I’m humbled by her selflessness, I’m amazed by her strength, and I’m honored to coach her. She’s a kid that has always been counted down and out because of her size, which is exactly why she is, who she is. I’ve always said my favorite thing Abby is her ability to play and be bigger than her stature. That’s exactly what she’s done here, she’s stepped up once again and played big. I could not be more proud of her and we fully support her and cannot wait for her to be back,” Tagaloa said in an email.

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