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George Lopez Finds a Perfect Match

When the comedian needed a new kidney, his wife, Ann, donated one of her own.
By
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

"I'll give you one of mine," Ann Lopez said to her husband the moment the couple learned he would need a kidney transplant. He thought she was joking. But George Lopez, star of ABC's The George Lopez Show, is the comic, not his wife.

And so, just before sunrise on a Tuesday in April of 2005, the Lopezes arrived at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where they were prepped for surgery in neighboring rooms. Right before Ann was wheeled to the operating room --- her surgery began first --- she gave George a letter and a rosary.

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"I wrote that I was doing this out of love, and that I had faith in the operation," Ann recalls. "To me, this was about us, about our daughter, Mayan. But George, he comes from a very dysfunctional family, a horrific childhood. It was hard for him to accept that someone would give him the gift of life."

Ann remembers feeling excited, almost fearless, and definitely ready to get the operation over with. Not George.

"It was harder for him, because I was taken first," says Ann, who knew her husband was worried about her.

"I was crying. I thanked her and I told her I loved her," George recalls. "I was more concerned about her than I was about myself."Ann's operation lasted about two and a half hours. George's more complicated surgery took five. Both were successful. That night, tired and in pain, but relieved that it was over, the Lopezes lay in separate hospital rooms and talked to each other on the phone.

"I love you," Ann told George. "We're on the other side."

A Life With Kidney Disease

Getting to the other side was not easy. In April 2004, doctors told George the inevitable surgery would take place the following April. But first, there were 24 episodes of The George Lopez Show to be shot. The comedian, whose rise to stardom on the stand-up circuit was due in no small part to his relentless touring schedule, was used to working long hours both on the road and on his hit show, which first aired in 2002. But nothing prepared him for this.

"'Man, I'm dying,' I told Ann after the first day," he recalls. "But I love the show, and I'm responsible for 170 people's lives and livelihoods."

Tired, often in agony, George nevertheless met his production schedule. Work, he says, released him --- at least temporarily ---from his suffering: "When you're performing on stage, there's a weightlessness. You're without pain."

Now, says George, the pain and fatigue are gone. And they disappeared quickly. A near-fanatical golfer, George was back on the links 10 days after surgery. His complete recovery from near total kidney failure still surprises him.

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