The Perfect Fit
And, it turned out, very lucky. Gutierrez, 33, suffering from advanced kidney disease, needed a transplant. Amazingly, she got a donor almost immediately: her doctor. On Oct. 10 Hou, medical director of the renal transplant program at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., became the first known U.S. physician to donate a kidney to an unrelated patient. "I thought, 'If this kidney is big enough for me, it's big enough for her,'" says Hou, explaining that one size doesn't necessarily fit all. Gutierrez, a homemaker and mother of two, has recovered fully and is back home in Bridgeview, Ill., with husband Juan 33, a printing pressman. She calls her doctor "an angel here on earth."
The Boston-born Hou, who holds a degree in East Asian Languages from Harvard and a medical degree from the University of Massachusetts, had dreamed for 30 years of becoming a donor. Why? That's a bit of a mystery, even to her. "Some people just have a donor chip in their brains," she says. "I can't bring about world peace or eliminate hunger, but I could fix this problem."
Hou's family is happy she followed her heart. "She always said that the only reason you have two kidneys is to give one away," says Mark Molitch, her endocrinologist husband. The second of the couple's three kids, Ethan, 22, expressed his approval in an ironic post-transplant e-mail to his mom: "She's nuts, she didn't think. Just did it. Big heart. Strange brain." Hou laughed so hard her stitches hurt.