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‘NCIS: LA’ and ‘Ninja Turtles’ Star Facing Major Health Fight

‘NCIS: LA’ and ‘Ninja Turtles’ Star Facing Major Health Fight

Actor Ernie Reyes Jr., who starred worked on the early 1990s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies and recent NCIS: Los Angeles episodes, recently underwent a life-saving kidney transplant surgery. However, the post-operation procedures have taken a toll on the martial artist and his family launched a GoFundMe recently to pay for his medical bills. His sister, Destiny Reyes, said the 49-year-old is “barely able to move” and has to stay in Phoenix for more tests.

For more than six years, Reyes has needed dialysis three days a week while waiting for a kidney transplant. While he was in Hawaii, he learned that a kidney had suddenly become available, but he needed to get on a plane to Phoenix as quickly as possible, Destiny wrote on the GoFundMe page. Reyes’ procedure was successful, he tweeted on Dec. 19. “I can’t express enough my gratitude for what you have done for me. You guys and gals are the best,” he wrote to the team at the Phoenix Mayo Clinic.

However, Reyes learned he needed to stay at the Phoenix hospital for an extended period of time for follow-up medical exams. “On his road to recovery, barely able to move, it will be a challenging time for him and his family,” Destiny wrote. “He now has unexpected living expenses for his stay in Phoenix, and when he returns home. This is especially difficult, considering that he won’t be physically able to work for the next several months, and will be unable to bring in income to support his family while he recovers.”

Over 200 fans have already donated a combined $21,800 to Reyes’ family to help. The family set a goal of $75,000. “Our Reyes family deeply appreciates all of your prayers, blessings, and support over the past 6 ½ years,” Destiny wrote. “Any donation to help him with his post operation expenses and living would mean the world to him and his family.”

Reyes, whose father is also a stuntman, made his film debut at 13 in The Last Dragon and Red Sonja, both released in 1985. He also starred in Disney’s short-lived 1986-1987 series Sidekicks. In 1990, he was stunt double for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and had an on-screen role in the 1991 sequel Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. In 1993, he had a starring role in Surf Ninjas, even scoring top billing over Rob Schneider. Reyes also appeared in episodes of NCIS: Los Angeles, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Superstore.

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In a Yahoo! Entertainment interview earlier this year, Reyes reflected on his own role in opening doors for better Asian American representation in Hollywood. “To think that thirty years ago, I was making Sidekicks and now Disney is doing Raya and the Last Dragon and Shang-Chi,” Reyes said. “I know that we played an instrumental part to get to this place, and I’ve developed things, too, that hopefully fit into that world. We work hard to when we get the opportunities to represent our culture well so that people understand. It’s an important time, and I definitely know that the story’s not over; my mindset is always that the best is yet to come. I’m just very grateful to be alive and to be here.” 

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