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Alberto Botta

In the 1970s, Alberto Botta, a successful entrepreneur from Italy, was diagnosed with glomerulonephritis, a disease that has negative effects on the portion of the kidney that filters blood. Alberto battled this disease for 10 years before receiving year-long dialysis treatments. He sought hospitals in Europe for a kidney transplant, but he found that many European facilities had a five-year waiting list—too long for the urgent treatment he required.

Due to this realization, Alberto requested a list of U.S. transplant facilities from the National Kidney Foundation and was presented with an overwhelming five-page list of hospitals. He struggled alone to research hospitals by faxing overseas, trying to glean information about surgeon and hospital success rates. Finally, Alberto called the secretary of the National Kidney Foundation and asked, “Please, imagine I am your son. Which one would you recommend to me?”

The man on the phone replied, “I would go to UPMC with Dr. Starzl.”

In 1987, Dr. Thomas Starzl, also known as the “Father of Transplantation,” was working at Presbyterian Hospital, now UPMC Presbyterian. In late October 1987, Alberto met the surgeons at UPMC. He received his kidney transplant in July 1988, within eight months of his initial visit.

Alberto notes, “I always say UPMC saved my life—because for a guy of 30 years, the next 20 to 25 years are the most of life.” He returned to Italy where he enjoyed living an active lifestyle, traveling and working as a manager in telecommunications. Alberto later moved on to start a successful venture in China. He currently manages Chinese imports at his own company based in Italy.

"I always say UPMC saved my life"

Following this success, however, Alberto returned to dialysis treatments after 23 years of successful kidney function. He received these treatments for three years, and after a biopsy with Dr. Ron Shapiro of UPMC, he was told he would need a second transplant.

Considering the current statistics of kidney survival rates, Alberto had already beaten the odds. According to KidneyLink, the rate of survival for a transplanted kidney is 57.5 percent after 10 years; Alberto’s kidney had survived for over double that amount of time. Following Dr. Shapiro’s advice, he opted for a second transplant.

In March 2014, he was called back to Pittsburgh, and less than six months following his return, Alberto received his kidney in early September 2014. His life-saving surgery was performed at the hands of Dr. Martin Wijkstrom and Dr. Amit Tevar, both of whom work in the surgical institute named after the man who had previously saved Alberto’s life, Thomas E. Starzl.

Dr. Shapiro, who had been part of Dr. Starzl’s transplant team that performed Alberto Botta’s operation over 20 years ago at UPMC Presbyterian, was able to provide guidance on Alberto’s recent transplant.

"We both had less hair this time," Alberto chuckles.

Having spent a considerable amount of time in Pittsburgh for his operations, Alberto enjoys what he describes as the “very good unit,” the team of patient coordinators at UPMC Global Care.

“You have people that can translate, take care of everything. They helped me a lot. They are very useful and very good people.”

Alberto also notes that he is very careful in choosing where he receives his care, yet he trusts UPMC just as much today as he did over 20 years ago.

“Here you look up on the internet and you know the statistics of each transplant in the U.S. I’ve also seen at UPMC that the whole chain of people—from the people who clean the bathroom to the head surgeon—everybody is committed to transplant. This makes me feel relaxed, and I rely on them and don’t think too much. That’s very important,” he says.

Soon, Alberto Botta will return to Italy, where he can visit his daughter and continue living his healthy lifestyle as he has for the last 26 years, thanks to UPMC Global Care.