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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.

Clues to Kidney Disease continued...

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."

Minorities in general are often hesitant to see a doctor, says surgeon Charles Modlin, MD, director of the Minority Men's Health Center at The Cleveland Clinic. Modlin, one of only a few African American transplant surgeons in the United States, describes the attitude of many African Americans and Latinos this way: "If you're feeling fine, there's no reason to get tested. And if you hurt, you grin and bear it."

George agrees. "That's the one thing I'd change about Latinos --- we don't want to know if it's bad news," he says. "Me? I'd go to the doctor in a minute now."

Moving Toward a Kidney Transplant

Crippling pain finally spurred George to get a long-overdue checkup. A hard lesson, it's one he now shares with others on his web site, on his television show, and as a spokesman, along with Ann, for the National Kidney Foundation.

As George worked on the show and awaited his operation, Ann took a battery of tests to prove what she already knew in her heart to be true: that as a donor, she was a match for her husband. She also hired a personal trainer to help her get into the best shape possible before the operation. A year later, and 15 pounds lighter, she continues with the trainer three days a week.

Transplant success rates, Modlin says, have gone up dramatically in the last 10 years. So, too, have the number of living donors like Ann. That's a welcome development, he says, because such kidneys tend to function better than those from deceased donors.

George sticks to his daily regimen of medications to ensure that his body does not reject Ann's kidney, some of which he will take for the rest of his life. He stays faithful to his monthly doctor appointments, exercises more, and has cut out fast food.

"I weighed 235 pounds when I found out I needed a new kidney," says the 6-foot Lopez. "Now I weigh 190."

Though the operation was a complete success --- Ann calls it "the dream transplant" --- it came with some side effects. One of the medications that George takes causes occasional hand tremors, making simple things, such as lifting a glass of water, frustrating and difficult. Those tremors also make it harder to play golf, a game that is sacred to the comedian.

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