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Men's Health

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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.

A Life With Kidney Disease continued...

His new kidney --- and his family's once-cavalier attitude toward his sufferings --- inspired him to write an episode on his sitcom in which his fictional son, Max, wets the bed repeatedly due to the same condition George had. George says he played the role as he might have done with his own daughter, Mayan --- if recent experiences hadn't taught him better.

"I [say to] Max: 'Don't tell your mom -- and don't drink water before going to bed.' It wasn't hard to do those lines. My character wouldn't have known or suspected something really was wrong."

Clues to Kidney Disease

At 17, George also had high blood pressure, which can be both a symptom of and a precursor to kidney disease.

Looking back, he's shocked that someone as young as he had hypertension. At the time, though, it raised no alarms, nor did the fatigue that had begun to plague him as an adult. He rarely saw a doctor. George says he believes the reason is, in large measure, cultural: "Latinos, we only go to the doctor when we are bleeding. We forget about things internal. Fatigue is just fatigue."

George's condition is only one path to kidney failure. The most common cause is diabetes, in which a buildup of sugar in the blood has a similarly poisonous effect. High blood pressure is another cause --- and an effect --- of failing kidneys. An estimated 375,000 Americans are currently undergoing treatment for kidney failure. It kills nearly 70,000 people each year.

Latinos are twice as likely as whites to develop diabetes, according to the National Kidney Foundation, putting them at greater risk for kidney disease as well. An estimated 13% of the Latino population has been diagnosed with diabetes. Many more have the disease and don't know it.

"The people who come to see me do stand-up, they never go to the doctor," George says of the many Latinos in the audience at his comedy shows. "I tell them, you need to go! You need to get your blood checked. That can tell you so much."

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