TAMPA, Fla. — Karate star—Rubiks cube champion—diehard Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan—and most recently, stage five chronic kidney disease patient.
What You Need To Know
- Raj Guntuku, 13, was diagnosed in October
- Joel Morales learned of Raj's need for a kidney
- The two now play video games together and have become friends
- LINK: Learn more about kidney donation
“We were all shocked because until September, he was all fine running, jumping, happy healthy kid. Almost never had to go to any ill visits to the doctor,” said Radha Patnayakuni, Raj’s mom.
Raj Guntuku, 13, was diagnosed in October after not feeling well for a few weeks.
By the time he got to the hospital, both of his kidneys were functioning at just 10 percent each.
“One in 900,000 people or one in a million people in the United States have this gene mutation problem,” said Neheu Guntuku, Raj’s dad.
Raj was left with no choice but to have a kidney transplant. So his family went on a mission—campaigning on trucks, on social media, and in the newspaper—to find their one in a million, his one in 100,000 match.
It was around this time that 28-year-old Joel Morales had a conversation with his wife in their Tampa kitchen.
“My wife goes, ‘Are you going to read this or do you want me to recycle it?’” said Morales.
The family is relatively new to Tampa Bay, so Joel likes to read the neighborhood newspaper for restaurant recommendations.
This particular December day, though, he hadn’t gotten around to reading the paper.
“I was like, ‘Eh just recycle the newspaper, I probably won’t read it,’” said Morales.
Then an article caught his eye.
“I asked my wife if she had seen the article and she was like, ‘Yeah I saw it, so sad.’ And then she looks at me again as I continue to look at the article and I think she knows that once I get that look in my eye, there’s really no turning me back in convincing me out of something,’” said Morales.
Fast forward to now — it’s been three weeks since Joel gave Raj one of his kidneys.
They now play video games together almost daily.
“We just found out that we play fortnight, we both play fortnight. So ever since then we talk every day and play. We talk about what’s going on and how we’re feeling and if we feel better,” said Raj.
Just months ago, they were total strangers.
“Raj needed a kidney. I have two, he only needed one. A couple weeks of recovery seems pretty worth it so Raj can go be a normal kid again,” said Morales.
Back to his karate, Rubiks cube competitions, and cheering on the Bucs.
And through it all, Raj didn’t only find his 1 in 100,000 match.
“[Joel] is a good friend and a person to thank a lot since he gave me a kidney,” said Raj.
But he also found a one in a billion friend.
“We could be talking for hours and it will feel like minutes. It’s like we’ve known each other our whole lives. It’s really bizarre and insane how connected we’ve become,” said Morales.
If you are interested in saving a life and becoming a living donor, visit https://www.tgh.org/services/transplant/kidney-transplant/living-kidney-donor-program.