Since receiving a kidney transplant, comedian George Lopez hasn't slowed down. In an exclusive one-on-one, Lopez explains what’s driven his transplant advocacy. 

How did you realize you needed a kidney transplant?

George Lopez: There were a few early warning signs, but mainly I was experiencing fatigue. I couldn’t stand upright and I was in a lot of pain. I went to the doctor and found out I would have to get a kidney transplant in five years. 

How have you adjusted your lifestyle since receiving the transplant?

Truthfully, I love what I do for a living, so it makes it easy to live right. I feel good, and I’m very fortunate that I do not notice the side effects most transplant recipients experience. 

"After I had my transplant, literally less than two days later, I woke up and I felt better than I’d ever felt in my life because I was really healthy for the first time."

What do you want readers to take away about organ donation?

Every day, 12 people die waiting for a kidney. Organ and tissue donation helps others by giving them a second chance at life. A match doesn't have to be precise, and medicines make it easier for a living donor to donate. We can save lives not only when we’re alive, but also when we pass, through donation.

What inspired you to start the Lopez Foundation?

To be completely honest, when I was sick, I was very, very sick, and yet I continued to do my work. I remember telling my doctor that I did not want to be the poster boy for kidney disease. I just wanted to get in, get out and get on with my life.

But after I had my transplant, literally less than two days later, I woke up and I felt better than I’d ever felt in my life because I was really healthy for the first time. At that moment, I decided that I could not turn my back on spreading the message of organ donation, of prevention and of taking an interest in health and in the health of my family. I hope everyone realizes that this is your life, and it is the only one you have. 

MORE THAN A MONTH: March is Kidney Month, but for those fighting kidney disease, every day is a struggle. Through the George Lopez Foundation, Lopez is able to give back to kids suffering through the disease. Photos: George Lopez Foundation

What are some of your proudest accomplishments since starting the foundation? 

Time magazine has recognized me as one of the 25 most influential Hispanics in America. I also received the ADCOLOR Industry Coalition’s All-Star Award, and the 2015 Best Actor Imagen Award. For my charitable work, Harvard University honored me with its Artist of the Year and Humanitarian Award, and People for the American Way awarded me with its Spirit of Liberty Award. 

What do you hope to achieve in the future?

My foundation, founded December 2009, helps people better understand kidney disease. We will be celebrating our ninth annual Celebrity Golf Classic in May. It is our mission to promote organ and kidney donation through our fundraising events, as well as highlight Kidney Month in March. We just partnered with Facebook to launch their Global Causes Day by sharing my story to bring more awareness to kidney health issues. 

Through our annual fundraising efforts, we are able to send over 250 children with kidney disease to a week-long summer camp and a fall family weekend camp at The Painted Turtle Camp in Lake Hughes, California. When you see the faces of the kids and of the families at the camp, you realize that it’s an amazing thing that we must keep doing.