Spider connection saves a life

February 21, 2018

Spider Pride

We know Richmond is a launch pad for not only impressive career paths, but lifelong — or maybe in this case, life-changing — friendships as well. Recently, two 1998 grads went ab­ove and beyond to keep one of them alive.  

Juan González Casares told his close friends at a fellow Spider’s wedding last year that he had IgA nephropathy, known as Berger's disease, and would eventually need a kidney transplant. Without hesitation, his friend of 20+ years, Erin Fox, volunteered. “I want to be clear about this,” she said. “I will give you my kidney — not if — when you need it.” 

When none of his family members was a match, Fox insisted on getting tested. She was a perfect match.

“Sometimes you have a feeling about how things will work out,” Fox said. “I never had doubts at all. [Juan] loves life and all the things that life has to offer and shares that passion with all the people around him. I think that’s a good thing and we should have more of it. I knew the world would be a better place if he was in it.”

Their surgeries took place last July, a few months after González Casares began dialysis and just seven weeks after confirming that Fox was a match. The road to recovery was relatively short for both of them, and they are completely healthy now. 

Their 20th reunion will mark the first anniversary of the transplant, and they’re coming back to Richmond to celebrate. It’s the place where they met some of their closest friends during their freshman year, and where González Casares met his wife, Jessica, ’00.

“We are a very tight group of friends and have kept in touch throughout the years,” González Casares said. “We have folks coming in from Colorado, Boston, Costa Rica, Panama, Oregon — all over the place.”

It’s common for Richmond-made friends and former roommates to go to great lengths to maintain relationships, but we’re especially proud of this story. We think González Casares said it best when he told us: “It’s wild, [Spiders] are everywhere. It’s such a small school that can create all of this. I don’t know of many places that can do that. Something is in the air there."