Tito

Tito first began having knee discomfort as a kid, which was not ideal for his active lifestyle which included sports such as his favorite, volleyball. He was later diagnosed with osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) which is a condition where one’s bones don’t grow as fast as the rest of the body. Growing so fast and playing a variety of sports did not help with the problem. In high school, doctors suggested to stop running and jumping as it was not helping the problem at hand. After a couple of surgeries, Tito made the switch from volleyball to rowing, although knee issues persisted.

Tito began his freshman year at Gonzaga in 2015 as a member of the Cheer Team, although was forced to resign after continuous knee discomfort. During the second half of his freshman year, Tito was put on a waiting list for a cadaver knee replacement. The waiting list process was something special as a matching knee needed to be from someone with 50% of the same antibodies. During this time, Tito was unable to travel because the surgery must take place within five days of a match being found. After waiting about 6 months, he finally received a call from a doctor with news of a match. Tito says, “waiting for the phone call was a bitter sweet thing – when you are waiting for the call it’s a paradox because although you know the knee will help better your own life, you know someone else is losing their life.”

Two days after the phone call, Tito underwent Osteochondral Allograft Transplantation (OCA) surgery which is when they take a piece of the cadaver knee and place it in the recipients. The surgery is extremely invasive due to the necessary reconstruction process of the knee including ligaments and tendons which left a large scar running down the side of Tito’s knee. Due to the necessary 6-week healing process the surgery was almost unable to happen before returning to school. Tito remembers the doctor saying they could only wait about two more weeks to find a matching donor and the call came during the second week.

After the surgery, Tito was able to write a letter to the family of the donor expressing his appreciation. Due to the anonymous design of the donation process, he does not know the family by name as the letter was sent through the donor matching system. He is thankful for this opportunity and believes it allowed him to develop closure. Although he did not return to the cheer team, Tito continues to live an active lifestyle after surgery. Throughout the rest of his college career he competed in numerous intramural sports as well has joining the club volleyball team. His knee donation allows him to continue living an active lifestyle to this day.