Selflessly, she gave the gift of life. Expecting nothing in return, she gained more than she could imagine. She also forged friendships to last a lifetime.
Working with patients on dialysis for 25 years, Lorena C. Rodriquez decided she could live without one of her healthy kidneys and became a donor. A medical assistant at Balboa Nephrology Medical Group Kidney Disease, Dialysis and Transplantation, Rodriquez contemplated this decision more than two years. Her goal was to get one person off the life-consuming grind of dialysis and off the organ transplant list. In April she gave her gift, but instead of elevating one life, she set in motion a chain of kidney transplants that changed three lives from Chula Vista to New York.
“It was because of my patients,” she said. “Where I work, many of them die, they became my family. They are like my parents, grandfather and friends. It is very sad when I see them go away. It does not matter to me who gets my kidney, as long as they need it.”
On the day of the operation, a wisp of a woman came running through the waiting room door, crying, laughing and hugging Lorena’s family and friends. With touching praises to God, she told everyone how grateful she was for Lorena’s gift of life.
“I am just so happy and full of God’s love,” said Nancy Curtis. “I have both my granddaughter Monique and my daughter Ria undergoing surgery right now. I am blessed and I love you for supporting your sister. She is saving my granddaughter’s life.”
A retired nurse in her 90s, Curtis took care of her granddaughter Monique McCray on dialysis for 14 months. McCray’s kidneys failed due to a complicated pregnancy with twins. With severe pre-eclampsia, she lost her first baby a few days before delivery of her “miracle baby,” a14-ounce daughter, born at 26 weeks. By December 2009 her kidneys failed. She said it was a blessing to find a donor so quickly when so many patients wait for years.
McCray called Rodriguez a “superstar” and told her how she could not wait to do all the things she could not do before. She said she now feels she can watch her daughter go to school, graduate and have children of her own.
“Lorena is part of my family now, she is a blessing,” said McCray. “I am so thankful for her. I can start thinking about the longevity of my life now. I have the opportunity of a new kidney and I am going to take care of it so I can live to see my daughter grow.”
Rodriguez said to her surprise, very few people are willing to donate kidneys unless it is for a family member. She hopes her example can change that. Our world needs more “altruistic donors”—no strings attached—to meet the demand for healthy kidneys.
“I am hoping people seeing me do this will understand it is safe to do and more people will become altruistic donors,” said Lorena. “We live in a culture where there is a reason for everything. Some things in life have no reason and people just do things because of who they are.”
In dealing with doubts of family and friends, the most difficult was trying to explain why she decided to be an altruistic kidney donor. She said she finally stopped trying to justify her actions and began asking questions herself.
“Why aren’t you doing this?” she said. “Inspiring people is what I am hoping to do. To let them know it is safe to donate a kidney. Give them extra life.”
Just a phone call away and two exits down Interstate 805, Lorena and Monique share more than a kidney. All because of an altruistic act of a single donor that believes in paying it forward. And the chain continues.