Rick and Richie Balderrama discuss liver cancer diagnosis & transplant

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Rick & Richie Balderrama | Courtesy photo

Tejano Nation had the honor of talking with Tejano musicians and brothers Rick Balderrama and Ricardo “Richie” Balderrama to discuss Richie’s 9-year battle with liver cancer and Rick’s decision to help his brother as a liver donor.

Richie’s journey began in childhood with a fatty liver, which eventually progressed to cirrhosis of the liver, and most recently to NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis), the most severe form of non-alcoholic fatty liver.

This exclusive interview sheds light on the remarkable story of resilience and hope in the face of a challenging medical condition. Richie’s courage and determination and Rick’s unwavering support serve as an inspiring example to many.

According to Pfizer.com, genetics play a significant role in contributing to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH). It’s worth noting that Henry Balderrama, father of Rick and Richie and a renowned Tejano legend, tragically passed away from liver cancer in September 2016.

It has been a challenging time for Richie, navigating the hospital visits and a decision to keep his diagnosis hidden from his family. It’s admirable how he leaned on his wife, Hope, and his daughter, Raegan, for support during such a trying period. Family’s love and support can make a difference in difficult times.

Methodist Transplant Hospital referred Richie to another hospital and another doctor for osteoporosis because the liver affects your bones. Richie explained, “The medication was giving me esophagitis and Rick says it was giving me ronia.” The laughter between these two is contagious!

Rick kept trying to figure out how his brother could get the much-needed transplant but the Methodist Transplant Hospital did not have a living donor program. Another contributing factor is the MELD Score. The MELD (model for end-stage liver disease) is a series of blood tests that measure how your liver works. The higher the score the higher you will be placed on the transplant waitlist. Your MELD score changes as your condition changes and may be recalculated as often as once a week. MELD score was developed so the sickest patients get the first livers available, scoring from 6 (less ill) to 40 (gravely ill). MELD scores are kept in a national database managed by the UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) contracted by the government to manage the organ transplant waiting list.

No doubt, Rick Balderrama was determined to give his brother another chance at life. He took all the necessary tests to qualify as a living donor, including achieving a weight loss of 20 to 30 lbs, adopting a proper diet, and consulting a dietitian. The final test involved a biopsy to confirm Rick’s compatibility with Richie and the likelihood of his liver regenerating. After a tense wait, a phone call brought the news: Rick was a match!

Good days and bad days are to be expected. Richie experiences fatigue, loss of memory due to high levels of ammonia, and weakness. Having humor has kept this family in good spirits. Doctors and nurses welcome the humor from Richie, in a stressful environment. Richie’s daughter once joked with him, “Dad, you were in there 1400.00 dollars’,” Richie asked, “What do you mean?” His daughter says, “You were in there 7 days Dad!”

Richie’s Next Agenda

Richie is determined to become an advocate for individuals in need of support and encouragement during their liver transplant journey. His next endeavor involves the creation of a documentary or possibly a film, detailing his own transformative experience.

Richie’s commitment to supporting others and sharing his story is truly inspiring, and his upcoming projects are bound to provide hope and guidance to many.

A benefit will be held on May 19th for Rick and Richie Balderrama. The B & N Sports Bar will host the event starting at 11:00 am with a food plate sale. The food will be BBQ Chicken and all the side dishes, continuing with a benefit dance starting at 4:00 pm. Performances by LA 45Texas Latino, David Lee Garza y Los MusicalesDavid FariasJR GomezStevie D. Los Navaira (Destiny & Rigo Navaira), Ram HerreraDavid MarezMario O., and Mike Gonzales & The IconiczzMinimum donation of $10.00, plate sale for $12.00. The B & N Sports Bar is located at 3705 Roosevelt Ave in San Antonio, Texas. For monetary donations contact Valarie Balderrama-Charles.

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Henry Balderrama left a powerful legacy, instilling values of kindness and care in his sons. Now, with an angel watching over them and guided by faith, Rick and Richie embark on a new journey. The heartfelt prayers and love from the Tejano Nation community surround Rick, Richie, and their families during this time.

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