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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.
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A Life With Kidney Disease continued...

"'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.

"Even when you know you're going to be well, you don't [anticipate] how well you're going to be," says George, whose kidneys had literally been poisoned over the years from a congenital abnormality that caused a narrowing of his ureters, the tubes through which urine travels from each kidney to the bladder. A person normally has two kidneys with one ureter coming from each kidney. "It's a totally new experience, being healthy. It was like being woken up. I was so toxic. I felt toxic."

The kidney's primary function is to filter the bloodstream. As blood flows through the kidneys, waste is extracted from it and excreted as urine. But because of George's narrow ureters, waste could not flow freely out. Instead, it began to flow backward, slowly poisoning his kidneys and inching them closer to kidney failure. Though he never underwent dialysis, he came awfully close. By the time he was admitted to the hospital for surgery, George says, his kidneys were barely functioning and had shrunk so much they did not register on an ultrasound.

In fact, George's kidneys had never worked properly. Growing up in Southern California's San Fernando Valley, he frequently wet his bed, and this could have been related to the problem with his ureters. George remembers feeling ashamed. And his family? They showed no concern. In fact, they made fun of him. "As a little boy, I grew up angry, alone, teased, and tormented," George writes in his 2004 autobiography, Why You Crying?

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