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Despite need for kidney, Montville man ‘loves life’

The subject of daily medication comes up during a recent interview inside the cozy Montville home of Luis Santiago Velazquez, and his teenage daughters can’t help but giggle.

A smile comes across their dad’s face as well.

“I love showing these to people.”

Every time he eats, the 40-year-old Velazquez has to supplement his meal with phosphorous binders, stopping in between bites to wolf down three or four.

This is Velazquez’s reality as a Type 1 diabetic who is in need of a new kidney. Despite his daily home dialysis and medication, Velazquez remains incredibly positive. He and his family, which includes fiancee Stephanie Londin and his two daughters, Erika and Bianca, are trying to raise awareness for him and for the over 100,000 Americans in need of a kidney.

Velazquez is on the deceased list for a transplant, a wait that could take up to 10 years. A living donor not only potentially gives him his kidney, it frees up a spot on the deceased list.

The initial step for any potential donor is just a 15-minute phone call.

“A living donor can just step up today,” Londin said. “It’s rigorous because they want to make sure he’s going to be OK, and the donor. But if you get somebody that is a match, he gets his kidney right away. As soon as all the testing is done and they match he’s eligible for it right away, instead of waiting for the deceased list.”

Velazquez was first diagnosed as a 9-year-old in his native Puerto Rico, but he didn’t start going to a doctor regularly until he came to the U.S. at 19.

In 2011 he was referred to a nephrologist, who told him he’d likely be on dialysis in three years. He made it a bit longer, beginning in 2018.

Velazquez comes home from work every day and immediately begins dialysis. He’s hooked up to the machine through the night, seven days a week, about 11 hours a day.

“It’s not fun,” he said. “I haven’t gone to the movies with my family in years. I can’t eat out. I can’t go out at night.”

He went to his oldest daughter’s high school graduation earlier this summer and was sweating because 7 p.m. was late for him.

Velazquez’s work at Argo EMS in Clinton gives him some sense of normalcy.

“I work full time and I don’t want it any other way,” he said. “I want to work. That’s my thing.”

And he has his family to live for.

“I have a wonderful life,” he said. “I have a lot of reasons to be happy. I go to the hospital and I see people there going through what I’m going through but then I see people having it a lot worse. God blessed me with an awesome family, an awesome job, the cutest town I could have ever picked. I love life.”

Still, he’s human, and it can be hard to stay so upbeat.

“I tell everyone, ‘dialysis and my disease is only a part of me, and a very little part of me,’” he said. “As big as it may seem and as time-consuming, I don’t let it get to my head. I can’t afford to. I just keep going until I find my kidney.”

Kidneys differ from other organs in that humans have two but can live normal, healthy lives with just one.

“I want to make everyone aware,” Velazquez said. “God gave us two kidneys so we could share one and give life.”

For more information, call Yale’s Center for Living Organ Donors at (866) 925-3897 or visit ynhh.org/organdonation.

Velazquez also has a GoFundMe page at https://gofund.me/82c8eb14.

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