When Monica and Cesar met 23 years ago, they fell in love and became a perfect match.
Their love for each other became Monica’s life-saving grace, when Cesar donated his kidney to his devoted wife, making it the first kidney transplant for the new Memorial Transplant Institute.
The couple is celebrating their 23rd wedding anniversary this week.
The transplant team completed the five-hour procedure on February 19, a successful milestone for the new adult and pediatric transplant program providing South Florida residents greater access to quality kidney and heart transplant care.
“This is an amazing gift,” said Monica, shortly before going home four days after the surgery. “God put this man in my life for a reason. He saved my life.”
“We are so grateful to Memorial for everything that has been done,” Cesar said. “It’s a new start to her freedom.”
The kidney transplant comes less than a year after Memorial received federal approval from UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) to launch an adult and pediatric kidney transplant program at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood.
The Institute also received approval to establish a living donor kidney recovery component, including open and laparoscopic nephrectomies.
The kidney transplant program, offering pediatric and adult kidney transplantation, now joins Memorial’s adult and pediatric cardiac transplant programs under the umbrella of the Memorial Transplant Institute.
The Institute is the only one of its kind in Broward County and one of only two programs in South Florida to offer kidney and heart transplants to both children and adults.
To date, Memorial has performed 20 adult heart transplants since 2014. Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital has performed 40 since 2010.
The skilled kidney transplant team is led by Dr. Juan Arenas, MD, Chief of Transplant Institute and Surgical Director of Pediatric and Adult Surgical Kidney Transplant. He works with a highly-talented team of nurses, perfusionist, social workers, nutritionist and laboratory medicine experts, who were all on cue for the recent transplant.
“We are so glad we finally accomplished what we set out to do,” said Dr. Arenas. “It was a long road to get here, but we had an incredible match, an incredible choice of patient and donor recipient and everything went as planned.”
Prior to federal approval, statistics showed that a large number of patients did not have sufficient access to kidney transplant services and many had to seek services outside South Florida and even out of state.
Dr. Fernando Pedraza, MD will head the adult kidney program as its medical director while Dr. Alex Constantinescu, MD is the medical director for the pediatric program. Both physicians will lead the management of kidney transplant patient care before and after transplant.
The kidney program now offers cadaveric kidney transplants, pediatric kidney transplants and living donor kidney transplants. Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital has provided the only outpatient Pediatric Dialysis unit in Broward County since 2004.
Offering pediatric and adult kidney care services under one Institute brings Memorial’s effort to offer the South Florida community complete cardiac and kidney care.
The adult cardiac transplant team was established at Memorial in 2014 when Memorial Regional Hospital earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for its ventricular assist device (VAD) destination therapy program. Destination therapy VADs are implanted in patients with refractory heart failure who are not eligible for a heart transplant. VADs have been proven to dramatically improve the long-term survival and the quality of life of end-stage heart failure patients.
The expert cardiac care at Memorial Healthcare System also encompasses southwest Broward County, while also covering the spectrum from pediatric to adult cardiac services. Cardiac experts at Memorial Hospital West perform catheterization and emergency angioplasties.
The pediatric cardiac team at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Heart Institute – led by Dr. Frank Scholl, Chief, Pediatric Congenital Heart Surgery and Surgical Director, Pediatric Heart Transplant and Dr. Maryanne Chrisant, Medical Director of Pediatric Heart Transplant Cardiomyopathy and Heart Failure Services – has successfully performed 40 pediatric heart transplants since 2010.
Between all the programs dedicated to transplant care at Memorial Regional Hospital, Memorial Hospital West and Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, Memorial Healthcare System is poised to offer the community total heart and kidney care from the youngest pediatric patients to adults, and throughout South Broward County and beyond.