- Associated Press - Sunday, June 28, 2015

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - They share the name Moses, and from there the similarities just keep going: They dress alike, have similar parenting styles and when prompted by a memory, they’ll both break into song.

They’re men of few words and great faith. And a quarter-century apart, Moses Cabrera and son Moses Cabrera Jr. both had kidney transplants, performed by the same surgeon.

This Father’s Day, the two toasted each other’s health - and recalled the health scares that brought them closer together.

“It’s just amazing that we both had to go through this,” the elder Cabrera, a retired postal carrier, told The Dallas Morning News (bit.ly/1IcKbNI). “But God has been good to us.”

Both have been separately diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, a mostly hereditary condition that causes cysts to form around the kidney, limiting and eventually destroying its function. It affects about 500,000 people nationwide.

The two Cabreras, like gym partners, encourage each other to pursue healthy habits, take their medications and stay the course.

“Not a day goes by that it’s not in my head,” Cabrera Jr. said. “We ask each other, ‘How you feeling?’ Or ‘Are you drinking plenty of water?’”

The experience has given them even more in common, a relationship that amazes Cabrera’s wife, Mary Ann.

“I always tell Moses - that’s not his son, that’s his clone.”

In the mid-1950s, Cabrera’s own father died of kidney failure at age 43, but little was known about the disease, known as PKD, and its genetic nature.

As a result, Cabrera, now 70, said he lived carelessly, even as his brother and sister succumbed to the disease.

He rarely checked his blood pressure. At work, he started blacking out for a split second - and then he’d gather himself.

When the dizzy spells started, wife Mary Ann made him go to the doctor. Blood tests told the story: He had PKD.

Most discover they have the condition as young adults - typically after they’ve started having children - but it’s not until decades later that they begin losing enough function to require dialysis.

Cabrera’s condition had gotten so bad that cysts had also developed in his liver. That, too, would require a transplant.

“I didn’t pay attention to anything,” he said. “It was just inevitable that it would come to kidney failure.”

Eventually, it did. After an attempt to find an available kidney fell through in Fort Worth, the Cabreras learned about the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, available through Methodist Health System Dallas.

They prayed for guidance and eventually decided Methodist surgeon Richard Dickerman was Moses’ best choice, even turning down the Fort Worth-based program when it came calling again.

It would be eight anxious months before Moses’ turn came up at Methodist.

That was 1987. And while his replacement kidney was projected to last a decade, it’s still going strong, 28 years later.

By the 1980s, Cabrera realized that diagnosis meant that his son and daughter would be susceptible to the disease. Moses Jr., then in his late teens, figured he’d cross that bridge when he came to it.

“I was working out, running 5 miles a day,” said Cabrera Jr., now 47. “I felt great. I was thinking, like, I might not get it at all.”

But in his late 20s, Cabrera Jr., who had joined the Grapevine Police Department, developed kidney stones. He had them removed, but blood tests showed he had the condition.

As years went by, his test results worsened, and he was eventually put on dialysis. He learned how to put a 15-gauge needle in his arm. It was a depressing, faith-testing way to live.

Eventually, he decided to take up a half-brother’s offer to donate a kidney. The firefighter had made the offer earlier, before things got so serious, but Cabrera Jr. didn’t feel right accepting.

Then time went by. “I didn’t want to say, ‘Hey, remember that kidney you said you’d give me?’ But then he offered again.”

This time, Cabrera Jr. accepted. He went to his father for advice.

“I wanted to reflect everything my dad did,” Cabrera Jr. said. “We’re so alike, people give us a hard time, like we’re clones.”

The elder Cabrera recalled: “He said, ‘Dad, where do I go?’ I said, ‘You go to Methodist, and you get Dr. Dickerman.’”

Dickerman was flattered that the younger Cabrera chose to have him do the surgery, but unusual as it may seem, it wasn’t the first time he’d done transplants for both parent and child.

“I’ve done about 3,000 kidney transplants,” he said. “It happens.”

Still, he knows that the experience can bring family members closer.

“They have a bond that goes beyond father and son,” Dickerman said. “They have a disease they’ve both struggled with.”

Cabrera Jr. agreed.

“With anything like that, you do feel more of a bond,” he said. “You have that much more in common.”

What really helped, he said was to have someone to talk to who’d already gone through what he was going to experience.

“He’d already been down that road,” Cabrera Jr. said. “Obviously the unknown is always scary. But if you have someone who knows, it’s comforting.”

The elder Cabrera said he learned to take responsibility for his health.

“I found out that if you talk about whatever problems you have, it’s easier to live with,” Cabrera said. “Before, I had my head under the ground, like an ostrich.”

At the clinic where he goes for periodic checkups, they know him as “the guy who’s had his new kidney for 28 years.” That’s what a success his surgery has been, he said.

But it’s more than that, he said; it’s been the vigilance with which he - and now Moses Jr. - have taken care of themselves since.

Like father, like son.


Information from: The Dallas Morning News, https://www.dallasnews.com

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