Local Kidney Specialist Donates Own Kidney

Lorena Rodriguez Has Worked With Kidney Patients For Nearly 20 Years

A local medical employee working with kidney patients decided to help one of her patients by donating her own kidney.

Chula Vista resident Lorena Rodriguez, 44, said the heartbreak and suffering she watched her patients go through as an employee of Balboa Nephrology Medical Group was almost too much to bear. She has worked with patients with kidney failure for almost 20 years.

Rodriguez decided to change her life so she could save the lives of others, and on Wednesday she underwent a unique surgery at Sharp Memorial Hospital, where she decided to donate one of her own kidneys.

"Seeing those patients, what they go through on dialysis, I wouldn't wish that on myself," said Rodriguez.

However, before she could donate her kidney, doctors told Rodriguez she had to improve her own health.

Doctors said Rodriguez had to lose 20 pounds. By walking and hiking almost everyday after work for the past two years, she surpassed that goal and lost almost 50 pounds.

"She has been incredibly motivated the whole year," said friend and colleague Dee Kline. "She has never backed off the diet or the exercise. She has just been amazingly committed."

A day after her surgery, Rodriguez met the donation recipient, 44-year-old Monique McCray.

McCray is a single mother of a 2-year-old girl, and she told 10News she now has a lot to look forward to.

"Hopefully, I will still be around to see her get married and I can see my grandkids," said McCray.

According to Sharp Memorial Hospital, there are more than 88,000 people in the U.S. who are waiting for a new kidney. The hospital said 1,200 of those patients live in San Diego.

But Rodriguez's generosity didn't stop here.

"It's not just one transplant here, she is responsible for three," said Tammy Wright, a nurse with Sharp's Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Center.

As Rodriguez donated her kidney to McCray, McCray's aunt flew in to San Diego from St. Louis to donate her kidney to a patient in Ithica, N.Y. That woman's relative donated her kidney to another patient in New York. In all, three patients received a new kidney thanks to Rodriguez.

"It feels great," added Rodriguez. "Here are three patients now who don't have to go through dialysis."

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