Odessa Man's Life Hinges on Organ Donation

Odessa Man's Life Hinges on Organ Donation

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

ODESSA-- You hear a lot about organ donation. But, like many things, in life, you never really think how important it is, until the need affects you, personally.

"I did have this, rare combination of blood diseases that few people in the world, have ever had," Jeremy Roberts, who is lucky to be alive, said.

Paula Roberts spoke, touching words, from her heart. "As a mom, when they're kids, you're supposed to be able to go in and fix things and I can't fix him. I can't go out and buy him a liver. I can't go out and make him well," she sobbed.

Jeremy is in need of an organ transplant. But, not an ordinary transplant. Jeremy needs two organs.

"It would be a dual transplant, which would be a liver and a kidney. Unfortunately, they have to be from a cadaver donor. They have to be transplanted from the same donor, at the same time, so that one doesn't reject the other," he explained.

Paula says nurses are in awe of everything he's been through. His doctors say he is, by far, one of the most complicated cases they have ever handled.

According to his cardiologist, Dr. Fernando Lopez, of San Antonio, "I think, most of the doctors who were involved in his care, at that time, would be surprised to hear that he's survived, this long."

Jeremy celebrated his 32nd birthday in November. His medical nightmare has been going on for most of his life. In fact, it's a miracle he's here, today.

"(There was) the year I died on Christmas Eve. (There's been) three, now, altogether, actual flat lined, gone, three. There have been other times that have been very close," Jeremy said.

Congestive heart failure and renal disease are just two of the life-threatening diseases he's been diagnosed with. And those are the easy ones to pronounce. The words roll off Jeremy's tongue, as easy as pie. He even laughs a little when he talks about them.

"The lupus anticoagulant, the diseases that I have, in themselves, are rare. Not many people in the world find themselves in the same situation that I am," Jeremy said.

Jeremy has had to go through several different therapies and treatments, just to stay alive. Believe it or not, those very same life saving procedures are slowly killing him.

"I believe that he has the best doctors that are out there" Paula said. "We have to believe that everything they do, from this point forward, is the right thing."

Jeremy and Paula have to drive to San Antonio to meet with his medical team. Cardiologist Dr. Fernando Lopez has been treating Jeremy, for most, if not all of his battle.

"Jeremy was born with a rare, auto-immune disorder that affected the clotting of his blood. But then developed a problem with heart failure and a leaky mitral valve, for which I was consulted on his case. I believe he was 12 or 13 at that time. I've been helping take care of him, ever since," the doctor recalled.

The organ transplant process is not an easy one. Now, take that and double it. That's where Jeremy and company find themselves today. They did get some good news, recently. Jeremy is on the transplant list and one step closer toward recovery. But there are still no guarantees.

"We've been waiting to get on the list for almost eight years," Jeremy said. "People don't realize that you just don't get in line and you're just waiting for the next person to get theirs and you'll be next. It doesn't work that way. They've talked about, if they don't get my liver and kidneys done, in the right time, we may be looking at a heart transplant as well."

Those that know him best, also know, Jeremy doesn't do things the easy way. The flu is enough to knock most people down for days. Jeremy refuses to stop going.

Paula says he's an Energizer bunny, "We go to the doctor and they're like, 'oh my god. He doesn't even look like he's sick. What are you doing?' He's working out at the gym. He's roller skating, three days a week. He's been doing tai-kwon-do since he was eight years old," she said, smiling.

For obvious reasons, Jeremy, his family and his doctors are staunch advocates for organ donation.

"The doctors told us, last year, if he didn't get his transplants, by March of this year, he would be gone. March is a couple of months away," Paula said.

The waiting game continues. Jeremy is on the list but still doesn't know when the transplants will happen. In the meantime, he takes his dialysis treatments, three days a week, here at home and makes the best of every situation.

"Being a jerk isn't going to get you anywhere. I learned that the hard way," he said, again, smiling.

Jeremy's story is truly unbelievable. Most can't even begin to imagine what it's like to go through it. But his faith is strong and he's full of hope. It helps to have an awesome support team. Jeremy's gaze is focused on the future, a future that, at one point, wasn't promised or even expected. Now, it's a little bit brighter.

"Once I've had my transplant, three of my diseases will be gone. That will start a whole new life for me," Jeremy said.

Registering to be an organ donor is fast and easy. You can do at the DMV or online. To learn more about organ donation or to sign up, visit http;//www.donatelifetexas.org.