MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A group of six strangers met for the first time- giving slightly awkward hugs- and some not even speaking the same language. But there is now an unbreakable bond between them.
The four men and two women took part in a kidney exchange at the same time–six operating rooms–six surgeries–and now six new chances at life with their loved ones.
“We are the pioneers of this program and I’m just so blessed that this program started,” smiled Alana Gonzales, a kidney recipient.
Alana Gonzales was disappointed when she learned her husband Gabriel Garcia was not a match.
She never knew a 22-year-old named Jonathan Jasko would be her saving grace- giving her one of his kidneys.
“He’s like my new baby…I’m just so happy,” said Gonzales.
Jonathan had hoped to give his kidney to his father, Dale Jasko. Doctors told Dale his high blood pressure and diabetes were so advanced he may only have 10 years left.
“I was on what’s called peritoneal dialysis and what that consists of is nine and a half hours a day, seven days a week being hooked up to a machine- you’ve got a cord you’re hooked up to. So that becomes the focus of your life,” explained Dale.
But he got Omar Figueroa’s kidney and a brand new future.
“I feel great, I’m very grateful to the hospital for giving me a second chance,” said Dale.
Now he looks forward to seeing his son live his life…though he’s already got a few demands.
“I’m looking forward to grandchildren! That’s what I want.”
Doctors at UM and Jackson Health System say the three way transplant process involved at least 30 doctors and staff and an immense amount of coordination.
“This took actually years to happen. It didn’t happen overnight,” said Dr. Giselle Guerra, Medical Director of the Living Kidney Donor Program
And they say this kind of group transplant system is just the beginning.
“There are opportunities to create a kidney chain, where a single donor begins a whole chain reaction of transplantation. where one donor donates to a recipient. Their donor donates to another recipient…and it goes all the way down the line,” explained Dr. Michael Goldstein, chief of the kidney transplant program.
The three kidney recipients are grateful for the energy they got back, and the new possibilities that await them.
Click here to learn more about the Kidney Exchange at UM/Jackson.
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