Following kidney transplant, Bronx DJ treasures life and family

Victor Sanchez getting ready to DJ. Sanchez has learned to appreciate much more in life after a kidney transplant 15 year ago.
Photos courtesy Victor Sanchez

After dealing with kidney problems for much of his life and at one point facing death’ s door, one could say Victor Sanchez cherishes time with his children more than most.

In fact, last month, Sanchez, a resident of the Belmont section of The Bronx, had an anniversary to celebrate. In 2006, Sanchez received a life-saving kidney transplant, allowing him to watch his four teenage children grow up. and it also provided him the ability to continue his other passion, a three-decade career as a DJ.

“I do feel grateful,” Sanchez told the Bronx Times. “I’m truly blessed. This Father’s Day was a little more special because I could get together with my family.”

Sanchez, 54, grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, but has resided in the Boogie Down for the past 27 years. As a youth he fell in love with the hip-hop culture, and was a break dancer and graffiti artist.

He recalled how his mom would buy him records from artists such as Biz Markie, Eric B. and the Fat Boys, which enhanced his love for the beats and rhymes. “Eventually, I turned to DJing because I found it safer than graffiti,” he said.

Victor Sanchez on dialysis prior to receiving a kidney transplant in 2006 that saved his life.

and slowly Sanchez stated to become known in the music industry. He worked as a producer, a vocal engineer, owned a record label and, throughout the ’90s and early 2000s, traveled worldwide to DJ events. He even spun house music in Naples and Venice.

But everything changed in December 1998.

It was then, at the age of just 30, that he was diagnosed with kidney failure. Sanchez recalled that fateful day for the Bronx Times.

As snow pounded the pavement, he walked to St. Barnabas Hospital with a bad fever and high blood pressure.

“I had symptoms I wasn’t paying attention to, but I didn’t know what they meant,” he said.

Sanchez, who had been going through a divorce, was quite stressed. Therefore, he overlooked his sweaty nose and the metallic taste in his mouth. These things should have sent him to a doctor, he said. On top of that he was eating unhealthy, overweight and dealing with hypertension. His doctors were shocked he was alive, he said.

“They were telling me I should have been dead,” he added.

The doctors wanted him to undergo emergency dialysis, but Sanchez sought a second opinion. From there things didn’t improve. He stayed in the hospital for a month and had a bout of jaundice — yellowing of the skin —  from not eating. Again, the doctors were insistent on dialysis and finally, in March of 1999, he gave in.

“In all honesty, I was deteriorating,” he said.

They told Sanchez that kidneys only last 10 years while on dialysis. The news was terrifying as he wondered if he his years were now numbered. Sanchez went on the organ transplant list and waited eight years to get to the top fo the donor list. According to Sanchez, that time of his life was an emotional roller coaster. He received treatment three days a week and even tried DJing on the weekend.

“There’s no app or anyone you can reach out to to tell you how close you are to the front of the line,” he said. “In the meantime, you’re doing everything that dialysis has to offer.”

On June 28, 2006, Sanchez was receiving dialysis when a social worker came in and told he needed to get to the hospital as an 18-year-old named David Grass had just been killed by a drunk driver.

Sanchez told the Bronx Times that his wife’s nephew was originally planning to give him his kidney until Grass, a Missouri resident, lost his life on the way home from his high school graduation.

Sanchez was rushed to the hospital, where the transplant was performed. However, Sanchez went back to the hospital eight times following the procedure. “In the beginning it was very rough because my body was rejecting it,” he said. “There’s a process of getting a cocktail right that works for you.”

fast forward to today and Sanchez has a new lease on life.

While he still DJs private parties, he takes better care of himself and spends much more time with family.

“Life after the transplant has been wonderful,” he said. “There’s just so much more to life than music.”

Since receiving his kidney transplant, Sanchez works closely with LiveOnNY, the official organ procurement organization for the greater New York region, to encourage and promote the life-saving gift of organ donation.

He speaks at colleges and raises awareness about LiveOnNY and stresses the need to take care of oneself.

“My takeaway now is, I try to educate people,” he said. “Don’t ignore anything that doesn’t seem right to you.”

Reach Jason Cohen at [email protected] or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bronxtimes and Facebook @bxtimes

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