Local man undergoes long-awaited kidney transplant surgery at UC San Diego Medical Center

Strike initially canceled James Rivera's surgery

SAN DIEGO - A local man who spent nearly a decade waiting for a new kidney emerged from transplant surgery Friday, along with a donor he met on Facebook.

James Rivera's transplant surgery finally happened at UC San Diego Medical Center, and now his family anxiously awaits word from doctors that the procedure was successful.

On Friday morning before the surgery, Rivera and Laura Shockley were all smiles. Rivera, a father of three, was getting a second chance at life after waiting seven years for a new kidney.

Rivera's wife, Janine, said, "[I'm] nervous, a little bit of butterflies. [I] can't believe it's happening."

The Riveras found Shockley on their own, and Shockley traveled from Tennessee to donate one of her kidneys to James and expected nothing in return.

Before the transplant, Shockley told 10News, "I'm a little nervous, but I'm so excited. Everyone here is really happy this is finally taking place."

The surgery almost did not happen, as it was canceled due to a one-day nurses strike.

After 10News shared Rivera's story, the CEO of UC San Diego Medical Center quickly rescheduled the transplant.

Shockley's mother, Linda Record, said of her daughter, "For her to be able to give the kidney, she was telling me that it was like being given a gift that she could give to someone else. That was so much more than what she could ever do on her own."

While both families are glad to see this day come, they are being cautiously optimistic until doctors give the green light that Rivera's new kidney is working properly.

Janine Rivera said she looks forward to the day her husband can play with his kids without being in pain.

"The one thing he keeps telling my oldest daughter, who's five, is 'We'll be able to wrestle again.' He's had the catheter in so he hasn't been able to do those kinds of things; he'll have more energy," she told 10News.

Rivera was able to raise thousands of dollars to pay for Shockley and her family to come to San Diego for the surgery.

Rivera and Shockley will spend the next six weeks recovering.

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