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National City Transplant Patient Gets Second Chance and "Walks" with It


May 02, 2007  |  

UCSD Medical Center patient guest of honor at the American Liver Foundation Walk

It’s been nearly three years since Sergio Martinez first started to feel sick…  really sick.  Now, on the other side of all those painful months, liver transplant recipient Martinez says he would never have made it without the encouragement of his caregivers at UCSD Medical Center.

 “I would have given up but with encouragement from the nurses, doctors, and staff, I hung in there.  Joanie’s encouragement especially,” he says, referring to transplant coordinator, Joanie Salotti, M.S.N.  “I trusted her and my doctors.  I have always done for myself and to have that many people helping me, well, they gave me confidence that I’d get a liver and live through it.”

On May 5, Cinco de Mayo, Martinez will walk with Team UCSD in the American Liver Foundation California Liver Walk at the San Diego Zoo.  The UCSD team invited Sergio and his girlfriend to be their guests.

Martinez received his transplant on September 24, 2005.  Due to complications before and after the transplant, he spent three months in the hospital, confused and disoriented.  His post-transplant rehabilitative phase was prolonged.  Nurses described him as “physically debilitated with considerable muscle weakness and gait disturbance."  He had to be retrained in how to do very basic things.

One day, said Martinez, he “woke up and my sister was sitting in the room.  I said, ‘When am I going to get the transplant?’ And she told me I had already had it. I felt a difference immediately.  I get better everyday.”

Now on the road to recovery, Martinez feels driven to give back…and he feels a little guilty.  His liver problems were caused by alcoholism. 

“I drank all the time.  I was a functional alcoholic.  I probably had 10 shots of liquor before work everyday.  I know there are people with a bad liver who are more deserving.  I don’t always feel I deserved this second chance but I appreciate everyday” he said.

 “He walked with us last year, and we didn’t think he was going to make it,” says transplant coordinator Joannie Salotti.  “But he kept saying ‘I’ve got to do this.’” 

He finished and today he’s an inspiration to many. 

“Sergio is actively involved in helping out other patients and family members during their time of need, throughout the transplant process,” says Joanie Salotti. “He has also donated many walking canes for patient use and has become a mentor.”

“What an inspirational story,” says Alexander Aussi, transplant program administrator.  “…from end-stage liver disease to physical fitness.”   

Martinez is currently on disability but plans to go back to work as soon as he can, “probably office work.  Nothing like I used to do.  No construction, ladders, or power tools.”  He says his feet are firmly on the ground.  “I used to be an expert skydiver, risking my life all the time.  I don’t feel that way any more.  I have a better appreciation for life and for people.  What I appreciate, I appreciate sober.  Whatever I do, I do sober.”

California Liver Walk participants lace up their shoes on May 5th, 2007 at 7:30 am at The San Diego Zoo.
$35 for adults.
$25 for children.
Check-in is from 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.
Team UCSD will meet at the War Memorial Building on the morning of the walk.

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Media Contact: Kimberely Edwards, 619-543-6163,


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