John Paul Aguiar is a successful businessman, but his career didn’t start out in a traditional way. While most people work their way up the ladder from the cube to the corner office, Aguiar’s journey to success took a different route – one that started when he was told his kidneys were failing and that he would be put on disability.
First diagnosed with kidney disease at age five, his kidneys started to fail by the time he was in high school. During his junior year, Aguiar was told that he would need to begin dialysis or receive a transplant because his kidneys were no longer able to filter his blood on their own. After his kidneys started to fail, Aguiar’s mother was tested to be a donor and fortunately doctors quickly determined that she was a match. Over the course of a few weeks, Aguiar and his mother began to prepare for transplant surgery and he was able to avoid going on dialysis. “I was very lucky to have such a supportive family,” says Aguiar.
Aguiar admits that he was a bit naïve at 18 years old and that he let his guard down about being “sick”. He didn’t physically feel sick, so he didn’t consider himself to be dependent on medication. He took his medication as directed about 95% of the time without thinking that the other 5% would affect him. But he was wrong.
After two years of taking his medication somewhat inconsistently, making a few reckless teenage choices and being involved in some major car accidents, it was too much for his body to bear: Aguiar lost his kidney. “That was a really rough time in my life. The kidney match happened so fast and the transplant process was quite easy, so I don’t think that I took it as seriously as I should have. The subsequent loss of my kidney hit me pretty hard and I spent seven difficult years on dialysis before finding another donor match,” says Aguiar.
Like Picasso’s artwork during his Blue Period, there was a silver lining that came out of Aguiar’s seven year “dialysis period”. Determined to find a creative way to keep busy and unable to hold a typical nine to five job while receiving in-center treatment, he began to consider ways that he could work more independently to both pass the time and generate a paycheck. “Dialysis really motivated me to try things in my life that I otherwise may not have,” says Aguiar.
Aguiar experimented with using the internet to make money by selling items on eBay. Shortly thereafter, Aguiar developed the foundation for building his online business by teaching himself about online marketing and social media. In less than a year, Aguiar had built his business up to such an extent that he was able to stop receiving his disability checks.
Just days before his 27th birthday, Aguiar learned that a match had been found and that he would be receiving a new kidney. Aguiar reports that he feels lucky to have been given this second chance. Just a few weeks ago, Aguiar celebrated his tenth kidney “transplantiversary” and he’s never felt better. “My kidney is working great and I’m at my lowest med count that I have ever been at. I have a sense of freedom now that I’m no longer on dialysis and knowing what it feels like to lose a kidney made this anniversary very significant and special,” reveals Aguiar.
He is committed to increasing awareness about kidney disease and the importance of maintaining kidney health through adhering to a healthy lifestyle and diet. Given the organ shortage, Aguiar encourages everyone to learn more about organ donation and becoming a living kidney donor, a powerful way to truly change others’ lives.