SUV billboard leads to successful kidney transplant for Pasadena man

PASADENA, Texas – It was a unique effort to help her husband find a kidney when Alicia Stockton used her SUV as a billboard to find a donor, but it worked.

“The surgery went great,” said Dr. Kris Gugliuzza. She performed Steven Stockton’s surgery on Tuesday. “Living donors are the best for recipients on dialysis and give the recipient double the life he might have not had if he was on dialysis.”

Steven and "Dr.G”, as he called her, formed a bond and he said he’s beyond thankful. 

“I just feel like I’m free now, I don’t have to worry about going in and attaching to a machine for hours a day, three days a week,” Steven said. “I’m just ready to go on and live a real life again. Just to be able to spend more time with them (his family) and enjoy every minute of every day.”

Steven has been on dialysis for about four years and in 2017 had both of his legs amputated.

READ: Pasadena woman uses SUV as billboard to find husband new kidney

His wife posted the sign on their SUV for months and they would receive calls, but nothing happened until they went out to eat in May.

While the Stockton's were ordering food at Oriental Wok in Pasadena, Melinda Cavazos was the one who took their order.

“That day, I saw the truck they were in at the drive-thru,” Cavazos said. “I asked her, 'Your husband needs a kidney?' She goes, ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I’ll do it!'”

PHOTOS: Steven Stockton's journey to a new kidney

Fast forward to now and after hours of surgery, the transplant is complete, and both Cavazos and Steven are doing well.

“I just feel like I’ve opened a door he needed to go through,” said Cavazos. “People tell me, ‘You’re an angel, you’re a hero.’ I don’t feel like that. I just feel like he needed help and I helped him, that’s it there’s really no words for it.”

“It’s been surreal, is the best word, it’s kind of one of those things you don’t believe it until it actually happens and you want to believe it and it’s just been the greatest feeling on earth,” Steven said.

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Cavazos hopes this will inspire others to donate their kidney to someone in need.

“Do it, I mean you’re not going to take your kidney with you when you die,” said Cavazos. “You can live on one kidney. I’m living on one kidney right now.”

“She will always be like a sister and extended family to me for the rest of my life,” Steven said, who was discharged on Friday. “She gave me at least double the life span I would have had, at least off of that on dialysis. It just gives me more time to be here and enjoy life and be with my family, the gift she gave me, she could never know how much it means to me.”

“It’s an amazing story the way Melinda came forward that she wanted to donate to him,” said Dr. Muhammad Mujtaba, health medical director for kidney and pancreas transplants at UTMB Health.

“She came up as what I call 'superhero.' I think this is the ultimate act of humanity in my view," she said. 

Dr. Mujtaba said UTMB has historically been a driving force in transplant surgery.  After Hurricane Ike, the program was temporarily relocated to Houston while the hospital recovered from the storm.  Now the program is back on its feet and hoping stories like Cavazos and Steven inspires others.

“This is an example for you how you can help the other and take somebody off of dialysis, but it’s not only helping the patient, It also helps the patient’s family,” said Dr. Mujtaba.  

If you’re interested in donating a kidney, check out UTMB’s Kidney Transplant Program.

The family set up a GoFundMe page if you are interested in helping them out with medical costs.