Editor’s note: Sgt. Joel Guerrero of Avenal State Prison (ASP) received a liver transplant after two years. Here is an open letter he wrote to all those who helped.
To my ASP Family,
I’m sure by now everyone knows for the last two years I have been fighting for my life after been diagnosed with a genetic liver disease (Alpha- 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency).
A summary of what has occurred:
On Sunday July, 1, 2018, I was admitted at University of California San Francisco (UCSF). I got so sick I was somehow diagnosed as the most ill liver patient in the state of California (I’m still waiting for my trophy for being the state champ by the way, lol).
Moving forward to Monday July 16, 2018 at approximately 6 p.m., surgeons came in asking if I was ready for surgery. I was so overwhelmed with emotions and so happy I couldn’t even talk; all I could hear is the Doctor saying, “Let’s move people; clock is ticking.”
There were serious complications during the surgery. They took me in twice and lots of blood transfusions. After a day and a half in ICU, the doctors took me off dialysis.
On Wednesday, July 18, rehabilitation started on the regular hospital floor for transplants. A couple of days later, I ran into the surgeon who is said to be best in the nation, and he asked me “Are you religious?”
I said yes. He then said “You’re what I call, a true miracle of God. For a moment I thought I lost you.”
After going through what I went through, many things ran through my head and I couldn’t begin to explain right now.
I’m scheduled to be discharged Tuesday, July 24, 2018. I’ll be staying close to UCSF, in the Bay Area due to so many follow up appointments. I’m making great progress by the way.
Words can’t explain how I really feel at the moment. One thing I’m going to say is thank you to all my brothers, sisters, friends, family, and strangers who helped me get through this very difficult time, especially for my wife so strong who was by my side every minute of it at the hospital.
Thank you for all who made the long travel just to visit me. (By the way I was told we hold the record for the ninth floor with the most visitors. They were so happy to see so much love and support that everyone got to stay.) At one point, I had 12 kids in my room, lol.
I would also love to give special thanks to:
- Badge of Brothers and all who participated in the Golf tournament fundraiser
- Sergeant Glen Lublin and his bass tournament fundraiser
- CCSO donations
- CCPOA donations
- GoFundMe account and all those who donated
- CRT Brothers /Administration / Statewide CDCR staff who signed up to be a donor / Fresno Chief of Police Jerry Dyer calling me (By the way we have lunch with him coming up.)
- My boy “Magic” Mike Tuntakit and Officer Steve Thacker of course
Last but not least, the biggest shout out to my Brother/Officer Ray Zavala and his family who was willing to jeopardize his life to save mine.
I know many of you keep asking this question. Ray did make the weight and did what he needed to get done.
But due to my rapid decline in health, the surgeon said to me “I can’t use Ray, you’re too sick now and a half of a liver won’t keep you alive long enough.” And the doctor stated “Joel, after meeting all your friends and family I have to give you the best I can offer. Just hang on a little longer almost there.
With all of my heart and my new liver, I thank you all so much for your continued support to me and my family through this life changing event. It’s not over for me, I have a long recovery but I won’t quit this battle and thank you for those that had my six.
Sgt. Joel Guerrero