Early symptoms for polycystic kidney disease are virtually invisible, Cojo says. It's a genetic disease in which cysts grow on the kidneys, often leading to kidney failure. While Cojo says he had some lack of energy, he chalked it up to his extra-long workdays. He also had high blood pressure, which he had kept a secret from everyone. It was to check on his blood pressure that he finally decided to go to the doctor.
Cojo "was completely shattered" when his doctor told him he was in the final stages of kidney failure. "Like the ultimate kick in the stomach. Like I lost my breath. And then I didn't want to tell anybody."
"The doctor was so blunt," Cojo says. "[There was] no foreplay…and he said, 'Your only options are dialysis, which is horrible and draining and you won't be able to work…or transplant."
Cojo was told he had about a six-month window before his kidneys would stop functioning. "I went to a specialist and he said, 'What I recommend to you from my heart is find a donor. Go to friends and family because to go on a list…' And I said 'Can I get on a list? Is there any special treatment?' I went there. I mean, it was my survival. I was, like, 'Here's the keys to a nice Range Rover. What can I do? Can I give your wife a free makeover? Can I pay you in clothes?'"