During this special time of year, Oscar Perez and his family couldn't be more thankful.
Oscar's match for a kidney transplant was made last week and the eighth grade Storm Lake Middle School student is recuperating well at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
Oscar has been on an international donor list for the past two months and his family was told to always be on stand-by to rush to the hospital in case a match would be located. The call came at a time they never expected.
While he has been too ill and susceptible to germs to go to school for the past few weeks, Oscar still wanted to be a part of the school play, "High School Musical" which was presented Friday and Saturday. He had landed the part of Jack Scott, the public address announcer, and he made every rehearsal.
As he left the stage at the opening night's performance Friday, Oscar was told that Mrs. Jones, the principal, was looking for him. A little unnerved by such a summons, Oscar located her.
In this instance, she had the best news he could ever hear - a call had come in that a kidney donor had been located. Oscar needed to get home quickly.
"I was real happy," the recovering Oscar recalls.
He thinks he screamed with joy when he heard the news.
From that instant - time became crucial. It was important that Oscar arrive at the Nebraska hospital within two to three hours so that tests and preparation work could take place and the transplant completed shortly after. The news quickly spread among the cast members and many of them rushed to Oscar's home to wish him well prior as he prepared to leave for the hospital.
Oscar and his family - mom Rosa Valterria, brother David and sister Adrianna - arrived at the hospital in the early morning hours Saturday; the surgery took only two-hours.
Oscar remarked that he was not scared knowing he was going into surgery but rather "excited" that he was going to have his transplant and hopefully feel better. It had been a long seven months since his medical troubles began.
While traveling home from an outing in Sioux City on April 15, Oscar said, he felt "different." His concerned mom took him to the Buena Vista Regional Medical Center and further testing in Omaha was advised. It was there that they learned that Oscar's kidneys had not fully developed, so were not functioning properly. A kidney transplant would be necessary.
They were difficult words to digest.
"How in the world could this happen to me and why?" Oscar said of his initial reaction.
He was placed on an international donor list but was told the wait could be six months to a year to find a match for a young adult.
While waiting, Oscar was required to take part in regular dialysis treatments.
The surgery went well and the new kidney is functioning as it should. Oscar is in a regular hospital room now after spending a few days in intensive care. He has been up walking and is slowly being allowed to add solid foods back into his diet. He will be getting out of the hospital soon but will be required to remain at home from school for several weeks to recuperate and get "rest, lots of rest," said his mom Rosa, who has gone through her own pain seeing her middle child suffering for all these months.
"I felt like the world was ending," she said. "I felt lost."
She is very thankful for the support the family has received from everyone at the middle school, the community, from Tyson, where Rosa is employed, and especially, she says, God.
"I thank God for giving me faith. I want to say thanks to everyone," Rosa said. "I don't know how to pay them back. But, thank you."
No information was revealed about the donor, but Rosa shared that the donor's family is given the choice of meeting or not meeting Oscar. If he could, Oscar said, he would tell the donor or their loved ones "thank you."
As for Oscar's role in the play, an understudy came in and completed his part on the second night of the performance.
* The Pilot-Tribune's circulation manager Ericka Venegas contributed to this article as an interpreter for Rosa's comments.