Bob Baffert helps groom search for kidney donor

Baffert is using Derby week attention to help his groom, Silvestre Garcia, find a living kidney donor.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For the past nine years, Silvestre Garcia has been one of the first people to get his hands on Bob Baffert’s horses every morning. He’s also one of the last ones to leave, making sure they’re cleaned up, massaged, and well fed.

The long hours any groom goes through are tough, with early wake up calls and days full of manual labor. But when Garcia is finished for the day, he goes home to his wife and son, plugging into a dialysis machine for nine hours. 

Garcia has polycystic kidney disease, and a transplant is the only way he’ll ever be able to stop dialysis.

He spoke to WHAS11 Wednesday, with winning plaques for Justify, American Pharoah and Authentic hanging nearby, explaining that what started as just a headache resulted in a search for an organ donor.

A new kidney would allow Garcia to not only be there for his family, but continue the work he loves so much — something Baffert has seen firsthand. He’s worked for Baffert for nine years, and has battled kidney disease for eight.

The trainer who tied the record for most Derby wins in 2020 said Garcia’s love for the horses and his job will keep him at the track on days he encourages him to go home and take it easy. Now, Baffert is hoping to help find him a new kidney.

Baffert and Garcia made a connection with Mulligan Living Kidney Donors in Louisville in hopes of finding a living donor.

Leigh Ann Saylor, the founder of the organization, said Garcia is one of thousands of people currently waiting for a kidney donation, and there will not be enough unless living donors step up to help. Her husband received a kidney from a living donor 10 years ago, compelling her to help others find a match.

Garcia is working with the transplant team at Harbor UCLA Medical Center, and the University of Cincinnati. To find out if you are qualified to be a kidney donor for Garcia or any other person in need, fill out a questionnaire here: www.UCHealth.donorscreen.org.

This story will be updated.

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