Fleming (L) and Mesa (R) were among the three recipients in the three-way kidney exchange that took place December 2009 in San Diego.
Two of the three people whose lives were saved in the county's first three-way kidney exchange wanted to share how grateful they are to the live donors who made the surgeries possible.
Surgeons at Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla successfully completed a three-way kidney exchange in a series of surgeries Tuesday and Wednesday.
This surgery is particularly unique because family members did not donate to their relatives. In fact, those involved don't know who got which kidney.
Here’s the breakdown: A man will give his kidney to a woman whom he has never met. That man’s wife will get a kidney from a woman whom she has never met. The second donor’s stepfather will receive a kidney from an outside donor he has never met.
Erica Mesa and Duwayne Fleming, two of the recipients, each waited more than three years to receive a donor kidney.
"It was difficult because I had a point where I thought I was never going to get a kidney. I just felt like it was impossible," said Mesa.
Then the call came two months ago. Kidney donation coordinators called Mesa and told her she had moved to the top of the list and needed to do some new lab work in order to qualify for a transplant.
The patients and hospital staff spent a year organizing the domino transplants.
"It was just bang, bang, bang," said Fleming. "Once they got all the testing of all six people it happened quickly."
Fleming, who was living on peritoneal dialysis at the time of the transplant felt a lot better Thursday than he did 48 hours earlier. His daughter donated a kidney.
"We don't know who has it and don't want to know," he said.
He was proud to be a part of local medical history and wanted to talk thank the anonymous donor who gave him an enormous gift.
”Whoever gave the kidney to me, gave me 25 years more life,” he said. If he could meet the donor, “There would be a big hug, a little prayer and a big thank you,” Fleming said fighting back tears.
“They must have a good heart,” Mesa said about the anonymous donor that made the whole puzzle fit together. "For somebody to just step up randomly and say ‘You know, I think I’ll give away my kidney.’ Woke up that morning and decided to give love. It was very loving on their part.”
All of the patients are doing well and are expected to be released from the hospital by Friday, just four days after the surgery process began.