• Last modified 983 days ago (Oct. 7, 2021)


Transplant patient cooks for a cause

Staff writer

Cecil Sanchez served up awareness of kidney disease with every ladle of chili Saturday at Marion County Lake’s Chili Cook-off.

Sanchez, who lives in Wichita, had a kidney transplant Aug. 19, 2018, after three years of dialysis three days a week. He made chili Saturday to raise money for the National Kidney Foundation.

As people came to sample his “Heart Your Kidneys” chili, they read information about the foundation and bought homemade salsa with proceeds going to the foundation.

Cook-off volunteer Ryan Robertson took a small tray of cookies to Sanchez’s table and announced that money paid for the cookies would go to the foundation. Eager bidders fought the price up to $50.

Sanchez raised $511 for the foundation at Saturday’s chili cook-off.

Sanchez, who spent time at the lake even before his 2012 diagnosis with kidney disease, knows people who now are being treated and others who lost the fight.

“Mostly everybody in the facility that are passed, I think about them,” he said. “Some of them passed right in front of me.”

Going through kidney disease was harrowing.

“The whole time I was on dialysis, I was 550 pounds, and they told me if I wanted to live, I had to change everything about my life,” he said.

He now weighs 270 pounds.

Like most people dealing with advanced kidney disease, he started to lose hope. He had days when he wanted to die because of the pain.

Now, after his transplant, he is thankful every day. He has no idea whose kidney was donated to him.

“The person who passed, I think about the person who donated, I think about their family,” he said. “This is a Band-Aid, and I know it’s a Band-Aid. I’m thankful to be alive.”

The experience has changed his outlook.

“Just to be alive is a joy,” he said. “I don’t sweat the petty things like am I going to have money to pay rent. Now I’m just thankful to be alive.”

He also is thankful for the staff who took care of him during his dialysis. One, whose name was Audrey, would come in on her days off to get his infusions started because his were not easy to start.

“One of the ways I pay it back is after I got transplanted, I went to work at Derby Health and Rehab as the head of transportation,” he said. “I knew how to take care of them.”

When someone has been in treatment most of a day, he takes him or her to a drive-through to get something to eat. He remembers what it was like to spend most of a day in treatment.

A nurse at the rehab center, after hearing that Sanchez was getting patients meals, told him to turn in the receipts, but he said no.

“I think this is my job, to raise awareness,” he said.

He said if his primary physician had tested him sooner, before his condition became as bad as it was, he might have made lifestyle changes to avoid a transplant.

Lake superintendent Isaac Hett said 400 people came Saturday to sample chili.

Last modified Oct. 7, 2021