Meet Lisa San Miguel

Great Hearts Academies November 1, 2022

San Miguel Family

Born and raised in the Valley of the Sun, Lisa San Miguel grew up in West Phoenix (Maryvale) and attended Maryvale High School.  “Maryvale is a community that is dear to my heart.  My parents still live in the same home,” said San Miguel.  “My parents taught my brother and I about commitment and hard work. My dad worked two full-time jobs while my mom ran the household and took care of my grandparents.”

Lisa got married in 2002 and earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management in 2003. This was a personal victory for her because she had just entered the biggest battle of her life. Lisa’s kidneys were failing at the time she accepted her diploma.

She started her first go-round with dialysis in July of 2004.  “I was so physically sick but managed to continue working full-time at a bank while attending evening classes with University of Phoenix.”  Later that year, she was in end-stage kidney failure and physically getting worse, requiring dialysis to survive until she received a kidney transplant the day after her 27th birthday.  Her mother was her living donor.

In 2014 she left her HR role with Humana to join Great Hearts as a Human Resources Coordinator.  “I wanted to be a part of a company where I believed in the mission and purpose – Great Hearts was exactly what I was looking for,” explained San Miguel.  She began advancing in her career as she moved from Coordinator to Generalist, and then on to Manager. Today she serves as the Human Resources Director for Great Hearts Arizona.

“I am responsible for a team of HR Generalists who are hardworking and dedicated to providing excellent service – we support the entire Arizona region. I am grateful for my manager and others that have believed in me and have provided me with opportunities.”

“My family and I have experienced many challenges and have always maintained our hope; even in the midst of hardship, we can still believe for the outcome that our hearts desire.”  She caught Valley Fever in 2013 and eventually it took a toll on her transplanted kidney, and by 2015 she was placed on dialysis again and had 3-hour long treatments, 3 times a week.  “I would leave work and head over to the dialysis clinic to receive treatments…. Dialysis cleans the toxins out of your blood and removes excess fluid.  It does the job of a kidney – but not very well. You are placed on an extremely strict diet and limited on daily fluid consumption – this was hard.”

In June 2017 Lisa had a second kidney transplant.  Her kidney donor is a teacher with Litchfield Elementary who was found through Facebook.  “My family, friends, and doctor urged me while on dialysis to speak up about my story and begin searching for a living donor since no family or friends were a match.”  It was explained to Lisa that if she did not have a living donor, she would be placed on the organ transplant waitlist, which averages five years in Arizona.  “I disliked every thought about having to share my need.  I kept silent for the first year I was on dialysis.  I felt embarrassed to ask people, I mean – how do you ask, ‘Hey, can I have one of your kidneys because mine have failed?’  My goodness, I was so against asking anyone and I thought my family and friends were insane. I am so glad I finally swallowed my pride and found the will to live.  That’s when I finally shared my story on Facebook, and it took off like I never expected it to.”

“My husband is a graphic designer and came up with the idea to use our car to advertise my need. He placed decals on the back window of our cars asking for a kidney donor. This idea took off and before you know it I had about 30 family and friends driving around with decals.  It caught the attention of Fox 10 News who came out and ended up airing my story.”

By March of 2017, the hospital had notified her that someone was a potential donor and completed the testing, which is a lengthy process.  The hospital couldn’t share any information about the donor and to her knowledge, it was not anyone that she knew.  “I had to sit tight and wait. In late May of 2017, I was driving home from work at Great Hearts and received a Facebook message. The message was someone introducing themselves as my kidney donor!”  The donor, Linda, shared that she was a mom, a wife, a teacher, and how she was excited to be a kidney match.  “I was so overcome by emotion and could not gather my words to speak when I arrived home. I finally responded to her and we met in person on May 5, 2017 – four weeks before we headed into surgery with our closest family by our side. I will never be able to express how grateful I am for [Linda] – she saved my life!”

Two months after her kidney transplant, tragedy struck again. This time her 23-year-old niece suddenly passed.   Lisa and her husband took in her niece’s son, and in 2019 they signed the official adoption papers.  “The journey was hard on us.  You never know what is going to happen from one day to the next.  We are grateful to have the most precious piece of our niece with us forever, our son!”  He is now 6 years old and loves superheroes.  “Family time is the best time,” she exclaimed.  “It is my time to cherish life with the people that I love and work hard for!”

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