“Welcome home" signs celebrate a life-saving milestone for Theresa Calderon. The 48-year-old is back home after a successful kidney transplant.
"Now, I know I'll get to see my kids get married and things I always wondered if I would get to do," said Theresa.
In 2009, doctors diagnosed the wife and mother of four with a rare autoimmune disorder.
"We got calls for possible kidneys three times," Theresa said. "One time we got as close as having consent signed and having the IV in and ready to go to the OR and then it fell through."
Theresa was a nurse before she had to quit because of health issues. Her husband, Tony, is a practicing nurse. The couple understood the risks when Ascension St. John scheduled the transplant on Easter weekend, in the middle of the pandemic.
"I feel like the virus isn't going away. It's going to be here in six months and everybody's being super careful right now, so maybe it isn't such a bad time," said Theresa.
But due to COVID-19 concerns, Theresa had to be dropped off at the hospital and her family couldn't keep watch over her before and after the surgery.
"Knowing that I'm leaving my family and not know what was going to happen," Theresa said.
"I knew it was going for a purpose and going for what we've been waiting for, so I was happy about that," Tony said. "But, just watching her go and having to walk away was against everything I felt I should be doing."
Theresa says three days of recovery without family was hard, but she's grateful for the doctors, nurses and staff who cared for her.
"I hope they know how much every little thing they did affected me and changed my life and for them, it might be just walking in and a smile, but for me it was, I didn't have my family there. I was scared," Theresa said.
"I had a lot of peace knowing they were going to take good care of her," said Tony.
The St. John Transplant Center had a record-number of transplants last year, with more than 60. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Theresa has been one of only two transplant surgeries. While she's recovering, Theresa is thinking about the organ donor's family and hopes to honor them by living life with meaning and kindness.
"Remember that we're all a family and we have to help each other out and sometime it doesn't mean doing something huge and big; sometimes it is just a smile or a pat on the back or a 'You got this.' I just hope everybody can remember that," Theresa said.