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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A South Florida woman made history at the new Memorial Transplant Institute and she can thank her husband for that.

Monica Calle has become the first kidney transplant patient at Memorial Transplant Institute in Hollywood.

“Two years ago when I heard about this program, I would kid around and used to say and tell my husband, ‘What if we are the first patients, what if it’s me that gets the first transplant’?” Monica told reporters Tuesday morning.

Ten years ago Calle was diagnosed with polycystic kidneys, an inherited condition which causes cysts to form in the kidneys that eventually overtake their function. It meant for nearly the last 3 years, more than 8 hours a day, she was forced to lay hooked up to a dialysis machine to perform the work her organs couldn’t. She needed a kidney and a match, she found her ‘perfect match’ in the man who’d been by her side for more than 20 years.

Cesar donated one kidney to his wife, making it the first successful live donor kidney transplant at the facility.

Cesar described the disbelief in being able to do for his wife what he prayed for so long.

“I realized that yes this is gonna happen Im gonna be the one to be donating this kidney I’ve never donated anything for that matter for me to do this was big,” he said.

Chief Surgical Director for the transplant program Dr. Juan Arenas described just how rare what happened for the couple really is.

“Parent to sibling you may be lucky and have a 50% match and sibling to sibling a 25% match so to find a perfect match between two spouses is very unusual,” said Arenas.

Calle, who is an employee at the hospital, and her husband Cesar met 23 years ago.

“Little did I know that those words that I threw out in the universe, that it would actually come back to me because I never imagined that I would be the first transplant,” said Monica. “This hospital made this possible for me, they gave what I call the gift of life. Obviously, if it wasn’t for my husband who generously donated a kidney I wouldn’t be here today, I would not have a second opportunity at life. I couldn’t be more thankful to him and to the transplant team for being here and making this miracle happen for me and all of the future patients to come along.”

Monica and Cesar are not only marking this milestone, they are also celebrating their 23rd wedding anniversary this week, an anniversary like never before.

“It’s my second opportunity at life, my husband keeps reminding that now I have a piece of him inside me,” she said.

The transplant team completed the five-hour procedure on February 19th.

“We are so grateful to Memorial for everything that has been done,” Cesar said. “It’s a new start to her freedom.”

The Memorial Transplant Institute provides kidney and heart transplant care for adults and children.


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