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1st Children's Hospital LA kidney patient gives hope to kids

March 2, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
It's a little difficult for 8-year-old kidney recipient Benji Diaz to comprehend what meeting 51-year-old Thomas Hoag means. But 45 years ago, Hoag was in Diaz's position. In 1967, Hoag was the very first child to ever receive a kidney at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

"I don't think there are too many of any patients who have survived 45 years with a kidney," said Children's Hospital L.A. Dr. Richard Fine.

When Hoag's dad volunteered to donate his kidney to his son, no one at Children's Hospital L.A. had done a kidney transplant. Fine was a young surgeon who stepped up to the plate, and judging from Hoag's longevity, he did a pretty good job.

"45 years later, I'm here and still every day is a new adventure," Hoag said.

Nine months after Hoag's surgery, Children's Hospital L.A. developed their own kidney transplant program. Since then, the staff has performed nearly 900 transplants. The program is one of the top ranked in the nation.

As Hoag visits young kidney failure patients, he hopes people will consider being donors themselves. Seeing Hoag healthy is uplifting for the many families who hope the same for their kids.

"You never know what to expect when you're receiving a kidney, so they tell you, you hope for the best but there's really no guarantee, so seeing him, it's inspirational," said Diaz's mother, Patty.