"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.
Men rarely see Thomas J. Weida, MD, for medical tests without prodding from a wife or girlfriend. When they do show up, Weida jokes that he “can see the drag marks on the carpet.”
It’s amusing, of course. But it can quickly turn serious when a man ignores important symptoms. Weida says he knows of men who got away with ignoring chest pain for a couple of weeks. Eventually, though, they died of heart attacks.
"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
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
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
"'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
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
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