By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
A friend from the past has given a Tucumcari man the ultimate gift this Thanksgiving.
It’s not uncommon for a friend to let you have the last slice of pizza or the last cold beverage. Marty Martinez’s friend, Michael Holloway, let him have one of his kidneys.
“Michael was sent by God, of that I am convinced,” Martinez said.
On Oct. 28, Martinez, 42, received a kidney transplant at Presbyterian Healthcare Services in Albuquerque, from Holloway, 25, of Middlesbrough, United Kingdom, whom he had not seen in five years.
Martinez was diagnosed with kidney failure earlier this year, a condition that developed after he lost a portion of his foot due to diabetes and a blood clot. He said the search for a kidney donor began after he was diagnosed.
“It got to the point where the medical staff suggested I look for a living will donor,” Martinez said. “I couldn’t bring myself to posting my need for a kidney on Facebook or the Internet.”
Martinez said there were family and friends who had considered donating a kidney to him but those options did not pan out. He said as he and his family contemplated his next move, the most unlikely of people paid him a visit on for his birthday.
On May 23, Holloway made the journey to Tucumcari to surprise Martinez, a friend he had not seen or spoken to since 2010.
“I was a bit scared, I was going to a town I didn’t know and had no idea where my friend lived,” Holloway said.
Holloway said this was only second time he had traveled to America from the United Kingdom. He said his first trip stateside was in 2009 on a culinary internship to Missouri, where he first met Martinez.
Martinez said he was working as a chef at a resort in Ridgedale, Missouri, and took Holloway under his wing. He said they formed a friendship over the next year and had told Holloway about his hometown of Tucumcari.
After Holloway returned to the UK, Martinez moved back to Tucumcari.
Holloway said he often thought about Martinez and for some reason he cannot explain, something kept telling him that he needed to go see him. Holloway said he eventually gave in to the feeling and decided to travel to America to see Martinez.
“I made it to Tucumcari and was staying at the Days Inn motel, because I had no earthly idea where Marty lived or how to get a hold of him,” Holloway said.
Holloway said he began talking to some locals and explained why he was and town and who he was searching for.
Martinez said the story got back to his fiancee, Marcie Channey, who went to the Days Inn to meet Holloway. He said they spoke and shortly after Channey brought Holloway to their home, where the two were reunited.
Holloway said he stayed with Martinez for two weeks and in that time he learned of his friend’s diagnoses.
“I was sad that my friend was in such a state,” Holloway said. “Even though it was a troubling time Marty took me in to his home.”
Martinez said a few days before Holloway was set to return to the UK, he traveled with him and Martinez’s father to Albuquerque, where his father had a doctor’s appointment; he didn’t want to leave Holloway alone in Tucumcari so close to his departure.
Martinez said as he and Holloway were riding in the elevator to the lobby of the hospital, his friend asked him a question that would change his life forever.
“’What would it take for me to give you one of my kidneys,’ is what Michael asked,” Martinez said.
Martinez said at first he was touched at his friend’s concern and compassion, then he was in shock realizing Holloway was serious.
“We are friends, but never in a million years was I expecting him to make such an offer,” Martinez said.
Holloway said after talking with Martinez at length about donating a kidney, they decided to go see Brenna Trujillo, a registered nurse and clinic manager at Renal Transplant Services at Presbyterian Hospital.
Trujillo said she spoke to Martinez and Holloway about the lengthy and thorough process that required to determine if the men were compatible for the procedure. She said having a family member or a friend come forward to donate an organ happens quite often.
Trujillo said about 60 to 75 people come forward wanting to be a donor each year. She said of those, the success rate of them being a match is probably 75 percent. However, only 35 to 40 percent of those who match complete their evaluation and are approved to be a living donor.
“There is an extensive process of screening, testing and follow ups that must occur to even determine if a donor is compatible,” Trujillo said. “Many times the donors don’t complete all of the requirements.”
Trujillo said it is an extensive process to donate an organ, doctors must determine if the two have cross-matching blood types to ensure Martinez wouldn’t have a negative reaction to Holloway’s DNA. She said even after those initial tests the donor must undergo a series of tests and evaluations to rule out any chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension that would make the organ unusable — as well as ensure the donor could not only undergo the surgery but survive loss of the organ.
Holloway said in June, he returned to the UK and began the necessary arraignments for him to return to the United States to follow through with the testing. He returned to Tucumcari in August and began the lengthy testing.
“Michael could have backed out and my family and I would have totally understood,” Martinez said. “I was worried about his health more than my own. I kept thinking that he is young, what happens if he gives his kidney and later on has health issues.”
Holloway completed the testing and was determined to be a viable donor and after months of uncertainty, Martinez was scheduled to receive a kidney.
Holloway’s surgery took three hours and Martinez was in surgery for five hours. Martinez said when he was in recovery, he woke up to Holloway standing at his bedside.
“I was shocked, I asked him what he was doing there and told him he should be in bed,” Martinez said.
Holloway said he felt fine, he had no pain and wanted to make sure Martinez’s surgery went well.
Martinez and Holloway returned to Tucumcari after the surgery for additional recovery. On Monday, Holloway was preparing to return to the UK.
Martinez said Holloway’s gift and the prayers and support of his family and community have helped him to make a recovery. He said he is sad to see his friend leave.
Holloway said he is planning a return trip to Tucumcari to visit Martinez and his family, who have taken him in like one of their own.
“He has become a brother to me,” Martinez said of his friend. “I am certain he is an angel, an angel sent by God.”