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The Ultimate Gift: Alejandro’s Story

Surgeon Jennifer Berumen, M.D., (left) and Kidney Transplant Program Medical Director Elizabeth Ingulli, M.D., (right) reuniting with Alejandro at Rady Children’s

By Erica Gadbois

Until Nov. 20, 2018, Alejandro Hernandez and Tiffany Jokerst had never met, but were already a significant part of each other’s lives. That’s because a few months prior, Tiffany did something remarkable — she became a living organ donor and offered one of her kidneys to Alejandro, then a complete stranger.

Tiffany, a mother of three and a math and engineering teacher at West Hills High School in Santee, had already wanted to donate her kidney when she was found to not be a match for the prospective recipient. However, she was committed to moving forward with her pledge to save a life, and was soon determined compatible with 17-year-old Alejandro, who was facing kidney disease and undergoing dialysis treatments multiple times a week.

In summer 2018, Tiffany and Alejandro both underwent surgeries at UC San Diego Health and Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego’s Comprehensive Kidney Care Center, respectively. Surrounded by family and members of Rady Children’s Kidney Transplant Program care team, including Medical Director Elizabeth Ingulli, M.D., and surgeon Jennifer Berumen, M.D., donor and recipient had a heartwarming reunion at the Hospital just a few months later.

Post-surgery, Alejandro is doing well and relishing his newfound energy, funneling it into favorite activities such as soccer, working out and hanging out with friends. He says his new kidney “gives him a better life.” As for Tiffany, she is thrilled with her decision, and encourages others to explore the option of living donation. “If you’re inclined, for sure do it. It was very rewarding and it was a great experience for me,” she comments.

To see Tiffany and Alejandro’s meeting, take a look at footage from CBS News 8 – San Diego and 10 News.

Published November 2018