When coworker needs kidney, LAC staff rallies
The need for organ donation is personal for Salvador Bermudez, a 16-year CDCR employee, husband, and father of a little girl. After feeling tired, and being unable to shake it off, doctors told him he needed a new kidney. While the CSP-Los Angeles County (LAC) lieutenant waits for a transplant, he’s urging others to consider organ and live tissue donation.
For the first seven years of his career, Bermudez was a correctional officer at LAC.
“Then I promoted to sergeant and mostly worked in Facility D,” he said. After serving as a sergeant for five years, he promoted to lieutenant.
“I have worked all over the institution but am currently an Americans with Disabilities Act lieutenant because I’m not physically able to handle too much,” he said.
He received his diagnosis in late January this year.
No warning signs of kidney trouble
“There were no warning signs except for in December 2022, when I was feeling really weak and retaining a lot of water,” Bermudez recalls. “I was in a debilitated state and checked myself into the hospital because I was feeling so bad. Then I was encountered with this diagnosis and was devastated. I did not want to believe I had this disease.”
At 41 years old, he wasn’t expecting such heavy news.
“I felt like I was going crazy,” he said. “It took about three days for me to fully process it.”
A diagnosis such as this affects families, friends, and coworkers.
“My family was highly affected by this diagnosis. I am not the same person. Also, because I’m always tired, I don’t want to go anywhere,” Bermudez explained. “My wife had to take over most of the chores because I am not capable of doing much.”
Since his diagnosis, he’s been hospitalized many times, causing anxiety for his 11-year-old daughter.
“My daughter tells me she doesn’t want me to die. I tell her everything is OK, but she doesn’t believe me. She is too smart and knows something is wrong. My wife also wakes up in the middle of the night looking for me, making sure I’m OK.”
Organ Donation: How can people help?
After months of medical tests, Bermudez has become well versed regarding kidney donations.
“When it comes to kidney donations, I was forced to learn about it. When donating a kidney, you cannot have high blood pressure, diabetes, be overweight, and must be cancer-free for at least five years,” he said.
According to Bermudez, doctors prefer the donor is healthy, rather than being a perfect match, because there is a swap program.
“If you donate and there is a need in the future for you to need a transplant, this puts you on top of the list because you previously donated,” he said.
Being an organ donor, a small box you can check when renewing your driver’s license, is something he encourages people to do.
“You will save multiple lives and give someone a second chance,” Bermudez said.
LAC coworkers have helped the Bermudez family through donations, but he is concerned about his depleted time bank and lack of a kidney donor.
“I’m hoping for a kidney, really, so I can live and be there for my family,” he said.
His last piece of advice for CDCR staff is to be proactive with your health.
“Since high blood pressure is so prevalent in our profession, I recommend everyone gets checked,” Bermudez said. “I didn’t even know my kidneys were failing.”
To register for kidney donation screening, visit https://usc.donorscreen.org/register/now
By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Office of Public and Employee Communications
Photos courtesy of the Bermudez family.