By Karin Kyte, director of business development
Frederick Romero, otherwise known as Fred, is more than the humorous, compassionate, outgoing 68-year-old resident from New Mexico who came to Life Care Center of Pueblo, Colo., for physical therapy. He is positive about his outlook on life, and he gives of himself in more ways than one.
In 1963, Romero donated one of his kidneys to his twin brother. Dr. Thomas Starzel, a physician, researcher and an expert on organ transplants, performed the transplant. Starzel also performed the first human liver transplants and has often been referred to as “the father of modern transplantation.”
Romero spent several weeks in the hospital after the transplant, but he was young and energetic, and he took it all in stride, never giving it another thought to donate a kidney to his sibling, born just three minutes apart from him.
“Back in the early days, employers would not take your application if you put down that you had a transplant,” Romero said.
Because of this, Romero continued his five-generation family tradition of ranching and restaurant partnering in New Mexico, despite his degree in political science. He also started a family of his own, to include four children.
Unfortunately, many years after the transplant, Romero became ill, lost the function of his remaining kidney and ended up on dialysis for three years. Then, after being on a wait list for a donor, a kidney was donated to Romero in 2007.
Romero is no stranger to doctors’ offices and hospitals. He has also been an insulin-dependent diabetic for 26 years. He attributes his wealth of medical knowledge and good outlook on life to his doctors and the good care he receives.
Dr. Madeleine Brown of Pueblo, his nephrologist, cared for him two years ago when Romero’s blood platelets decreased dramatically and he was hospitalized for two months.
After going home for several months, Romero soon found he couldn’t walk and was sent to an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Shawn Nakamura of Pueblo. X-rays indicated that his right hip was completely worn out. He had a hip replacement and was admitted to Life Care Center of Pueblo for three months of therapy and was able to return home again.
Seven months passed before his left hip fractured and he landed in surgery again with Dr. Nakamura. More than a month after his surgery, he again entered the therapy department with his antics and enthusiasm for life.
“I feel healthier now than I have been in years,” Romero said.
While at Life Care Center of Pueblo, Dr. Debbie Urioste, on-site physician and medical director, served as his primary care doctor. She said she is impressed with his participation in physical therapy.
“He has succumbed to numerous medical problems throughout his life, but he is so determined to walk out of here,” Urioste said.
Romero worked extensively with the therapy department, using the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill® and other equipment in the therapy gym.
“He does everything we ask him to do, and he always has great stories to tell while he’s doing it,” said Moses Roque, an occupational therapist assistant.
“Everything he says is positive and usually in a joke form – I don’t think he has a negative bone in his body,” added Laura Saul, staff development coordinator.
Romero greets each resident by name and gives advice on diabetes control to others with the same condition.
“I try to help other people,” Romero shared.
As part of his occupational therapy, Romero cooked fresh enchiladas and chili for the staff. But the day before he left on his journey back to his home in New Mexico, the therapists and other associates, like Urioste, did the cooking for him, throwing a potluck party with tortillas and accompaniments to celebrate his completion of therapy.
With cane in hand and departing out the door unassisted, Romero said, “I’m gonna miss everyone here, but I feel good, and I am confident I will make it.”