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Sun, Oct. 20

Waiting for transplant call is most difficult part<BR>

Those on a waiting list for a transplant wear their pager everywhere they go, and must be ready the moment it sounds to hop either in their car or in a helicopter to head to the place where they will have surgery.

Price had kidney cancer, and after doctors removed his kidney, "the cancer hadn't spread beyond that."

He said after a patient has cancer, they're supposed to be cancer free for five years before becoming eligible to receive a transplant. Price's doctors waived the last two years, "which was nice of them."

He has congestive heart failure and a genetic heart problem called cardiomyopathy. Price has also had a double bypass surgery and has a heart pacer.

"The only thing that will fix my problem is a new heart," he added. "My heart doesn't work on its own."

Price's wife, Lynne, said when her husband's beeper rings, "we have to be ready. He will be air ambulanced down to the UofA. Our Subaru just doesn't go that fast."

Lynne said every morning "my day starts by rolling over and making sure he's still breathing. We don't live day to day, we live minute to minute."

Paul added, "That's the reality of it. Our only saving grace is our faith and our sense of humor."

Lynne joked and said that because they don't know when his time might come, "we can't buy green bananas," and Paul added that they don't order the newspaper more than a few months at a time.

The Prices are part of the Prescott Area Organ Support Group, and Paul said it's an inspiration to hear the stories of those who have had a transplant.

"Those who have received a transplant are nothing short of a miracle," he added. "We all support each other, and everyone has a laugh or two or three and we keep tabs on each other. A lot of the folks are well educated about the process and everything you go through."

Price has been waiting for a heart transplant for two years, and Lynne said when they first found out he needed the surgery, "your world just bottoms out. It's terrifying, really terrifying."

Paul added, "You just take it one day at a time and hope a heart becomes available. I really think it's out of our hands and it's in God's hands. I figure the good Lord didn't bring me this far to kick me off to the side of the road. I know there's a heart out there."

Oscar Escudero and his wife, Irene, are in the same situation – praying every day that an organ becomes available.

Doctors diagnosed Oscar with Hepatitis C in 1996, and in 2000, Irene said "the disease disabled him."

He went to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale and found out he had in-stage liver disease, and Irene said "he needs a liver transplant. He'll die without it."

In 2000, doctors discovered Oscar had kidney cancer, which bumped him off of the transplant list. They removed half of his left kidney to rid the cancer, and his doctors told him he needed to be cancer free for two years.

After about 20 months, they found another tumor on his right kidney, and took him off the list again.

They removed half of his right kidney, and, Oscar said, "I have two half kid-neys."

"It was very discouraging," Irene said, "because you're waiting every day for tomorrow."

Oscar said that "since I've gotten sick, I know I can go either way, so I have accepted life or death. If it's God's will, I'll be gone, and if not, everything will work out, as it has so far."

At a recent check-up, doctors listed Oscar as No. 5 on the list to receive a transplant out of thousands, "so I feel better."

Waiting around is the most difficult part because Oscar feels sick a lot of the time, and isn't able to work or do chores around the house the way he used to.

"I've worked all my life, and I get tired of not being able to work or do any-thing," he said.

He said he is "stuck in the house 90 percent of the time," and, Irene added, "he's basically a prisoner of the house."

She said she and Oscar have their bags packed, "so when the pager goes off, we're ready. It's like having a baby, and getting ready to go into labor."

Oscar said one of the most discouraging parts about waiting for a transplant is knowing that "somebody has to die for me to live."

He pointed out that "once people are gone, there's nothing left of them."

So, he asks the question: "Why don't they give the gift of life?"

Contact the reporter at rbump@prescottaz.com

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