When Mercedes Rivas’ body began rejecting the dialysis she had been receiving for years, she and her doctors knew she needed a new kidney as soon as possible.
In late 2011, Rivas was diagnosed with Wegener’s Granulomatosis, a rare disease that damages organs. Within a few years, Rivas’ kidneys shut down which put her on dialysis that in late 2017, her body began rejecting.
“It didn’t look good,” Rivas recalled. “There was fluid in my lungs and I could not do dialysis anymore.”
Her sister, Maricela Atwater, then got tested to see if her kidneys were compatible with Rivas, resulting in Atwater donating her kidney to her sister last January in a transplant surgery completed at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, one of the few transplants done in the Rio Grande Valley.
“All the staff was good to me,” Rivas told a crowd of people Wednesday, July 25. “I couldn’t have picked a better place to do my transplant, so here I am today…I thank God everyday.”
Rivas recounted this story during the grand opening of the DHR Health Transplant Institute. The medical office building, located at 1100 East Dove Avenue in McAllen, is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary disease management center specializing in kidney, liver and pancreatic disorders. It will house DHR’s Kidney Transplant Center, Liver Specialty Center and the Hepatobiliary, Pancreas and Organ Transplantation Surgery Center.
The institute is the first of its kind offering these services south of San Antonio.
According to Laura Disque, transplant administrator for the institute, the facility is unique to the Rio Grande Valley.
“These clinics are only found here in the Valley, at DHR,” Disque said. “Together they are providing much needed care to the patients of the Rio Grande Valley. The location is ideal for the future of transplant and research here in the area.”
Carie Kadric, director of external operations for the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, spoke of the importance of being an organ donor and having a facility like the transplant institute so close to home.
“With the opening of this facility individuals and their families will be able to seek treatment here, locally, and have their life changing surgery a few miles from their home instead of going to another area,” Kadric said. “Together, we can help patients receive a second chance at life through donating.”
To create the facility, DHR hospital recruited physicians from across the country, focusing on kidney, pancreas and liver specialties.
Jose Almeda-the institute’s transplant director-said the institute was created with the idea of accommodating patients in the Valley.
“We wanted to provide transplant services, cancer services, liver services, everything you need under one roof so the patients won’t have to leave the Valley,” Almeda said. “We have all these departments to take care of amazing patients we have here in the Valley already. There’s absolutely no reason why anyone should have to leave elsewhere to receive these services; this amazing building we’re in today is a testament to the commitment from the hospital to the care of patients they will receive.”