A Last-Minute Lifesaver
Being the director of the kidney transplant program at Providence St. Joseph Hospital is certainly a profession that requires one to always be prepared. But in all his years as a transplant nephrologist, Yasir Qazi, MD, had never experienced a situation quite like this before.
It was September 16, 2022, Mexican Independence Day, when he got a call from his transplant coordinator saying a kidney had become available. After evaluating the organ and the next recipient on his list, the doctor determined that this would be a good match. As always, time was of the essence. The next call Dr. Qazi received was totally unexpected. The coordinator told him their patient, 49-year-old Efren Canizalez Carranza, was on his way to celebrate the holiday with his family in Mexico, and he was nearly there.
When the hospital was finally able to contact Efren, he said he would catch the next possible flight and be there for the operation. The doctor was apprehensive. He knew it was a busy travel time and was concerned the patient wouldn’t be able to get a reservation quickly. In fact, Dr. Qazi told Efren he wanted to see his boarding pass before he would accept the donated kidney.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
Thus began a tense journey and a race against the clock. “There were complications and a lot of stress,” says Efren. “A few minutes after receiving the magical call, I was on my way to the Hermosillo airport. I was able to get a ticket to Ontario with a layover in Phoenix. Unfortunately, the plane was delayed and I missed my connection home. I had been waiting five years for a new kidney, and at that moment I lost all hope.”
The prospective transplant recipient called the doctor to let him know he wasn’t going to make it in time. “That’s when Dr. Qazi did the unthinkable. He contacted the airline himself and figured out a way to get me on the first plane to Los Angeles.”
Efren went straight to the hospital from the airport. By this time, some six hours had passed. Ideally, a doctor would like the patient to be at the hospital one to two hours after the donation is received. But everything was in place, and the surgical team was ready and waiting.
Efren beams when talking about the care he received at Providence St. Joseph. “The doctors, the nurses, all the staff were amazing, and I’m so grateful for everything they did for me,” he says.
“Everyone was so nice, so professional.”
After five years of enduring dialysis three times a week, Efren’s life has changed dramatically with the transplant. “I feel great. My blood pressure went down. I’m much more active and have more freedom. Life is wonderful,” he exclaims.
Dr. Qazi agrees that Efren has regained his freedom. “The transplant not only improves his quality of life, but it also gives him a survival advantage. By eliminating the toxins out of your body, one is likely to live longer. With young people like Efren, this will add a lot of years to his life.”
Even with all the last-minute adversity Efren faced when he had to rush home from Mexico, he remains optimistic about organ transplantation. “I would like to tell anyone waiting for an organ transplant to be patient and not give up. Stay positive and keep calm. You’ll get the call, just like I did.”
THE GROWING TRANSPLANT PROGRAM
In fact, the odds of getting a new kidney at Providence St. Joseph are increasing all the time. Dr. Qazi says the hospital has one of the fastest-growing transplant programs in Southern California. He’s only been here since last summer, and already the numbers have tripled. The doctor adds that the hospital has one of the highest success rates in the country. This year, the Kidney Transplant Center celebrates its 50th anniversary; during this time more than 1,200 patients have received new kidneys at the center.
The dedication to his work and the compassion Dr. Qazi feels shine through when he reflects on his mission. “I have such gratitude for donors and donor families. Organ donation and transplantation reminds us about the good that happens silently in the middle of the night,” he says. “This brilliant, unselfish act is a miracle.”
For more information visit Kidney Transplant Center or call 714-771-8033.