Local man spending Thanksgiving holiday with kidney donor

Laura Shockley donated kidney to James Rivera

SAN DIEGO - A local man who waited nearly a decade for a new kidney will spend this Thanksgiving with the donor who helped save his life.

James Rivera first contacted 10News last week when his transplant surgery at UC San Diego Medical center was canceled because of a nurses strike.

Rivera was finally able to undergo the surgery last Friday at UC San Diego Medical Center, and he told 10News on Monday that he's getting stronger each day and is looking forward to going home just in time for the holidays.

"Everything's been greater than what I expected. I feel so good; it's awesome," Rivera said in a video message.

Three days after receiving a new kidney, he said he feels like a new person.

"It's like night and day between how I felt on dialysis to waking up immediately after surgery. I already felt a giant difference in my body," Rivera said.

His donor, Laura Shockley left UC San Diego Medical Center Sunday. She's up and walking, and even showed 10News the scars from the transplant surgery.

Shockley described the feeling of helping save a life in one word.

"Awesome. Obviously you hope for a good outcome but never did we anticipate it would work this well," Shockley said.

"I'm very grateful that I found Laura, my wonderful donor," Rivera said.

The strangers met on Facebook and went through many highs and lows before the surgery.

After Rivera's surgery was canceled, it was rescheduled after 10News first aired Rivera's story.

He expects to be back home Wednesday to share the holiday with Shockley.

"We get to spend some time together on Thanksgiving, so seeing him with his kids I think will be an awesome experience," Shockley said.

Rivera and Shockley hope their story inspires other patients looking for their perfect match to never lose hope.

"You put your mind to it you can accomplish anything," Rivera said.

Rivera said the one thing he looks forward to doing once he fully recovers is catching a wave.

To learn more about living organ donation, visit www.livingdonationcalifornia.org.

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