Luling’s Michael Diaz Jr. has dedicated his life to helping others, serving as a United States Marine, protecting the country in the Army National Guard and keeping local streets safe as both a state trooper and police officer.
But now, Diaz needs help as he goes through the toughest ordeal of his life.
Six months ago, Diaz was a healthy father, who along with his wife Jacqueline, owns Mariano’s Italian Eatery. But after experiencing breathing problems he visited doctors and learned that he had an incurable lung disease called Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.
“From there his condition rapidly declined, until he couldn’t make it to the top of his stairs without losing his breath,” Eric Schmidt, who has been friends with Diaz for more than 27 years, said. “By the last week in April he needed 24-hour care and was given less than six months on his lungs.”
His only hope was a double lung transplant.
On May 9, Diaz began suffering long coughing fits that left him unable to catch his breath for more than 20 minutes at a time. He was taken to Ochsner for tests, where it was discovered he had developed pneumonia in both lungs.
“The pneumonia and subsequent treatment for the infection actually saved his life,” Schmidt said. “If a transplant candidate has an infection they will not perform the transplant, and the doctors were wrong on the length of time his lungs would function.”
When doctors removed Diaz’s lungs, they discovered that they would have lasted only a few more hours. Diaz got the transplant in the nick of time, and so far the lungs have been a perfect fit and match, Schmidt said.
“The donor was a 19-year-old whose gift of organs saved seven people,” Schmidt said. “Before this I was against donating my organs, but I will now.”
Throughout this ordeal, Diaz’s wife, Jacqueline, has had to endure more than most could conceive. She and Diaz have two children together and she has two children from a former marriage, in which she was widowed.
“Mike has been unable to earn income over the last few months and living expenses are overwhelming,” Schmidt said. “Jacqueline is having to care for the children, deal with Mike’s illness and run a restaurant.”
Diaz’s father and stepmother have also been at his side throughout the illness and opened their house and allowed his friends to rotate in and out to help him.
“They are exhausted, emotionally and physically,” Schmidt said.
Diaz has impacted many lives and is the reason Schmidt met his wife of 15 years and ultimately had two children.
“We went to LSU together and have remained close friends throughout the years,” Schmidt said. “There is nothing I wouldn’t do to help him in a time of need. If one of my lungs could have helped him, I would have given it gladly.”
Diaz has a very loyal and close knit group of friends that have rallied by his side since his illness. Schmidt developed a web site to post updates on Diaz’s condition, and already 1,795 people from 31 states have signed up to check in on Diaz.
“Mike is a true gem in the world in which we live,” Schmidt said. “He is always optimistic, a loyal, honest friend and a loving husband and father. He has a great sense of humor and he is very passionate about his beliefs.”
Donations to help Diaz and his family are currently being accepted at www.mikediaz.org. A paypal account is setup on the site and Diaz’s friends will also host a blood drive on Friday and a fundraiser this Saturday. For more information on both events, see What’s Happening on 3A.
“He will be liable for huge medical expenses for the surgery itself, and then ongoing medication is estimated to cost $2,000 a month,” Schmidt said. “He has been in the hospital for a few weeks and will now live in an Ochsner apartment for two to three months with 24-hour care.
“This means he will be unable to earn income until September, at minimum.”
According to a recent update, Diaz is now able to walk around a bit and is in great spirits.
|Michael and Jacqueline Diaz pose for a family photo with children Claudia, Marcos, Talia and Micaela. Michael was diagnosed with an incurable lung disease called Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and received a double lung transplant. He is now in recovery an|