Almost immediately after Art Navalta received part of his co-worker’s liver back in 2005, he said he felt different.
“I started craving chocolate,” Navalta said.
A treat he had only sparingly ate before the transplant.
“We both believe her love for chocolate is something I inherited and it’s a good thing,” Navalta said.
“I would joke with Art and I would tell him, Art, if I had known I was going to lose my love for chocolate I don’t know if I would have donated,” Becky Atencio joked.
Atencio talks about her friend and the donation that saved his life with a smile.
“I’ve told Art many, many times I would do it all over again, even knowing what I know now,” Atencio said.
What she knows now is that during the transplant, the vagus nerve in her stomach was damaged. It took years for doctors to diagnose the problem. Her stomach wasn’t digesting her food. For the few years Atencio has had a gastric pacemaker in her stomach, helping the muscles contract. But there’s a problem.
“I have 2-3 adjustments left and after that they can’t increase the intensity that is sent to my stomach,” Atencio said.
Insurance isn't covering what she needs. So Atencio is looking for her own donations…dollars…up to $20,000 to help pay for an appointment at the Mayo Clinic on Valentine’s Day.
“They said they do not make appointments with anyone they feel they cannot help, but my hope is that they’ll have answers that these doctors don’t have,” Atencio said.
She has started a Facebook page for updates and donation information. Friends have opened a bank account called “Becky’s Angel Fund,” at the Wells Fargo at 560 Garden of the Gods Road, in Colorado Springs. A benefit concert is also in the works for Sunday, February 9th.
On Navalta’s right arm he has a tattoo.
“Ang Alay, that is in Filipino, it means ‘the offering’,” Navalta said.
On his face, he wears another emotion when discussing what his friend is now dealing with.
“Guilt, on my part, of having been the recipient of that gift that has caused her pain,” Navalta said.
Atencio has her own tattoo. It reads "Done Vida" or "Donate Life." She comforts him with this thought.
“Missionary’s go out and risk their lives every day,” Atencio said. “I feel that my mission was right here in my backyard and this is the outcome and I know that the lord will see me through.”