Taking it one day at a time, Manny Bautista is slowly recovering from a life saving surgery he had on Jan. 6 with good friend Christie Huber. Huber donated one of her kidneys to Bautista, who was diagnosed with stage 4 chronic kidney disease in 2014.
“Slowly, but surely. Just taking it day by day,” Batista commented on his healing.
Bautista is a part of the touring musical group The Manny B Group. In the summer of 2014, he posted on his Facebook page that he needed a donor. It wasn’t long after, that “dear friend” Christie Huber, called and offered her kidney
“Oh my God; it’s like she saved my life and it was so unexpected.” Bautista was so touched by his friend’s generous gift.
Huber and her husband, John, have known Bautista for almost 20 years, when Bautista was with another band, The Torpedo’s. The Hubers’ used to own Baumgartner’s Cheese Store in Monroe and Bautista’s band would play sets at the tavern.
“We would call after performing and ask if they were still open,” Bautista remembered. “They would treat us to sandwiches, beers. Even when they moved, I’ve kept up with them. They are such dear friends.”
“When I saw that they were looking for one and I saw that we had the same blood type, I can’t explain what came over me,” Christie Huber thought about when she decided to donate. “I am so healthy and always have been. I wanted to try doing something to help; there was no question in my mind.”
And so it began. Christie started going through tests to make sure she was in fact healthy enough to donate.
She had blood work done in Colorado, where they currently live, and would send it up to the UW Health Kidney Transplant Clinic in Madison.
“As each test came back, I felt more relief each time. They mixed our blood together to make sure that it wouldn’t reject one another and when that came back, it made me feel so much better,” Huber described the waiting game.
“It has been pretty overwhelming,” Bautista’s fiancée Laurie Athey commented. Athey was at Bautista’s side during the whole process.
“I’m the worrier out the two of us,” Athey said.
She has a right to be. This is not the first scare Bautista has had with his health. It was 10 years ago that Bautista had a stroke and he suffered a heart attack in the ‘90s. He also currently has type 2 diabetes. Athey has health issues of her own, being diagnosed with MS. But getting Bautista well was first on Athey’s priority list.
“Once Christie offered her kidney, the process began last April.” Athey stated that Huber’s attitude was very positive and she was Bautista’s ‘angel’. Having those two together again was surreal for Athey.
“Even now it’s strange to think a piece of her body is used to keep him alive.”
There were a lot of doctors visits, medical tests, x-rays, ultra sounds doing a thorough job to see if he could handle the surgery and the new kidney. When someone is getting a new organ, the heart works harder, trying to fight off rejection every minute of every day.
Athey spent the first few days watching over him; she slept in his room, checked his blood pressures, making sure “nothing crazy was going on”.
“When your watching someone that you love going through something so serious, it’s hard to think of anything else.”
Bautista had a hard time in recovery. He had problems with his GI tract not waking up after surgery. He was miserable and in terrible pain. Three days after surgery, he had to have an NG tube put in to take out fluids. Four or 5 days after that, the tube came out but his blood pressure dropped and his heart rate went to 110. Doctors found out he was bleeding internally. He was rushed to the ICU where they found a bleeding ulcer. They patched that up and he spent a few more days in the ICU.
“After that it was like two days and we were out,” Athey stated.
It’s been close to a month since Bautista returned to his home in Gratiot. He can still feel the numbness where his stitches are but his strength is improving. He was cleared to start driving again and he is itching to get back on the road with his band. His first gig back is at the Menomonee Casino in Keshena at the end of the month.
“Right now I’m getting him prepared to go on the road again. I’m making schedules for ‘this is what you do in the morning’ and there are some things he has to do in order,” Athey stated.
He won’t be completely on his own on the road. Bautista’s bass guitar player, Papa Phil, happened to have a kidney transplant many years ago. Athey hopes both men can learn from each other and work on making smart, healthy choices.
But for now, things are going back to normal. Huber has gone back to work and is working full days at work. She is a big hiker but can only walk about 20 minutes before getting winded.
“It’s a small price to pay and life goes on,” Huber said.
Both Bautista and Huber felt the transplant center was wonderful along with the staff the encountered. Bautista and Athey want to thank all their friends, family and neighbors for all their help. But especially Huber.
Athey mentioned that, “perhaps Christie and Manny’s paths crossed some 18+ years ago, in preparation for this significant event. She’s an incredibly compassionate, loving human being. There should be more Christie’s in the world. It would be a much better place.”