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Center Snapshot: Jorge Otero
Jorge Otero. Image above: Jorge Otero is the head of the financial account services branch at NASA's Langley Research Center. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Denise Lineberry

More than 15 years ago, Jorge Otero, took a giant leap of faith for a friend. That leap wasn't revealed until the moment Otero and a former NASA co-worker from Goddard Space Flight Center, Hayward Trapps, crossed paths while on hospital gurneys in route to the operating room.

"What are you doing here?" Trapps asked.

"I'm donating my kidney to you," Otero responded as Trapps, who was facing total kidney failure at the age of 40, began to cry.

A patient escort wheeled them to the operating room for the four-hour surgery. Trapps’ new kidney began to work immediately, eliminating the need for daily dialysis.

In the hospital, they talked. They joked. And they prayed.

Two months of testing prior to surgery proved Otero to be a compatible donor, beating the 1 in 100,000 odds of a match from an unrelated donor. Otero was a "six-of-six" match, meaning all of the donor and recipient antigens matched.

The two had met at Goddard 11 years earlier. When Otero donated his kidney, he was working at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. Now, as the head of the financial account services branch at NASA’s Langley Research Center, Otero takes time to reflect.

The thread of it all is rooted in obedient faith. Initially, Otero trusted in prayer to help his friend. But one night, a question clearly entered his mind: "You continue to pray for this guy. Why don’t you give him a kidney?"

After talking with his wife, Vilma, he decided to explore the possibility. And the rest is now a part of their history.

Good health, friendship and laughter between Otero and Trapps remain.

Finding humor in life has always come easily to Otero, a "mirror" twin. Otero is right-handed. His twin brother is left-handed. Otero combs his hair to the opposite side of his brother's. Otero took pre-med courses and concluded that he preferred to be an accountant. His twin brother began studies in accounting and ended up as a doctor. Otero has five children. His brother has none.

Otero, one of five siblings, was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Washington, D.C., after graduating from Inter American University.

God, family and work are of utmost importance to Otero. He and Vilma have been married for 32 years, just one year shy of his Federal Government service.

And, as he has shown, a good friend should not be underestimated.

Trapps reminds Otero of that with a verse from the Bible -- John 15:13: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

"I am so happy that he is really able to function again. I do not want to glorify myself," Otero said. "If I can sum up what this represented to me personally, it was a step of obedience, to be closer to the Lord. Each of us has our own race to run. This was mine. I have to run it the best way I can."

The Researcher News
NASA Langley Research Center
Editor & Curator: Denise Lineberry
Managing Editor: Jim Hodges
Executive Editor & Responsible NASA Official: Rob Wyman