The first few years of Ryan Flores’ life were rough, but a kidney transplant and a childhood battle with cancer have not stopped him from living his life with a purpose – giving back.
Ryan was born with two damaged kidneys, one of which did not work at all. When he was 16 months old his father gave him one of his kidneys. The surgery was flawless, but anti-rejection medicines after the transplant lowered Ryan’s immune system so much that he developed Stage IV Lymphoma. Ryan defeated the cancer, and the result was a healthy body and a strong resolve.
“I definitely have a soft heart for people who are dealing with transplants or cancer, or know a loved one dealing with them,” Ryan says. “It is something so hard for your family to deal with, and just love and support make that much of a difference. My drive comes from my second chance at life and what I have been able to do being a transplant recipient and cancer survivor.”
Inspired to help
Ryan’s cancer has been in remission for 15 years, and he has lived a normal life. However, he has not looked at his battles as a source of frustration, but rather inspiration. Ryan has made it his mission to help others who face hurdles similar to his own.
Ryan’s family established The Children’s Kidney Foundation immediately after his surgery. The foundation raises funds to help families with children undergoing kidney transplants. Ryan said the foundation generates funds through charity golf tournaments to help families in anyway possible – from electric bills to toys at Christmas.
“The smile we put on those kids’ faces is something that will never leave my mind,” he says.
In addition to working with the foundation, Ryan has made it his mission to raise awareness of the pressing need for organ donors. Ryan participated in the World Transplant Games last year, winning a bronze medal in bowling and a gold medal in golf.
Organ donor walk-a-thon
Ryan has carried his desire to help others with him to ACU. Last October, Ryan hosted an on-campus walk-a-thon. More than 150 people participated in the event, and 30 signed up to become organ donors. Ryan’s story and the walk-a-thon were featured on a new television program on ABC called Everyday Health. The show, Episode 20, aired March 10, 2012.
“My hospital called us the middle of last summer and just asked, ‘Do you want to be on a new show on ABC called Everyday Health?’ and of course you have to say yes to that,” Ryan says. “It is a show about kids who have dealt with health issues and are giving back in a positive way.”
As Ryan continues his journey, he’s glad he made the decision to come to ACU, where he says the environment is like a family. For Ryan, that makes life a lot easier.
“I am truly blessed to be at ACU. It has helped me grow spiritually as well as mentally. The Christ-centered environment is like a family without your family. I love it here.”