These Latino donors exchange their organs to transplant them to their siblings in a rare but successful case

Two Latino families from Southern California were united forever in September 2023 after participating in an extremely unusual organ exchange procedure that saved the lives of their loved ones, reported the WLBT network.

When Kathya Rocha, 28, was ready and determined to donate her kidney to her older brother, Jaime Rocha Fernández, who had been born with kidneys that were too small for the size of his body, so he had been undergoing dialysis therapy since 2019, without showing any improvement.

However, everything changed when doctors told them that donation was almost impossible because there were too many veins and arteries around the young woman's kidney. “There was a very high risk,” said Kathya, who had lost 78 pounds to undergo the procedure, recalling the hopelessness of not being able to help her 40-year-old brother.

Around the same time, another pair of brothers suffered a similar situation that left them frustrated and hopeless.

Joselin Casillas was born with biliary atresia, a congenital defect that prevents bile from the liver from reaching the gallbladder, and at the age of 28 he discovered that his liver function was failing, after spending a long time living with fatigue and not wanting to leave the house. .

Seeing his older sister's yellow skin and the frustration she had, Saúl Casillas did not hesitate to donate a part of his liver to her. As with the Rochas, doctors informed them that, despite good will, the surgical procedure was not going to work because the remaining part of the liver would have been too small.

An unusual solution

After analyzing the situation, Dr. Jim Kim, director of the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program at Keck Medicine at the University of Southern California, believed with his team that they could organize a double organ exchange, something very rare.

Kim's proposal once again gave hope to a couple of families full of anguish who clung to finding a solution: Kathya Rocha would donate her liver to Joselin Casillas, and Saúl Casillas would give his kidney to Jaime Rocha; as long as the medical tests gave approval.

Shortly after, after undergoing the corresponding tests, the doctors confirmed that it was a very rare but perfect quadruple compatibility between pairs of siblings. The surgeries were performed two weeks later.

“I just think, 'What are the chances of finding two other people who are totally compatible?'” Joselin Casillas told ABC 7 station.

“It was a matter of time and a little luck. He just so happened that their blood groups and antibody levels matched,” Kim explained. “As far as we know, this is the second time this has happened in the world.”

An “extended” family

Last March, seven months after the extraordinary donations and no subsequent complications, the pairs of brothers met for the first time.

“It was like being with family,” said Jaime Rocha, who has gotten a new job in another area.

“Seeing them was definitely the most beautiful feeling,” said Joselin Casillas, who is studying to become an elementary school teacher. “Here we are, with this new opportunity in life.”

For his part, Saúl Casillas stated that an unbreakable bond has been forged. “We're an extended family, that's how I feel,” he said.

Now, after making their successful story known, the Rochas and the Casillas are advocating for more people to join the option of exchanging organs, especially in minority communities. “Hispanics are a little afraid, but in the end, it's worth it. It will save your life and the lives of other people,” said Jaime Rocha.

“Not only have they saved the lives of Jaime and me and taken us off the (waiting) list, but two people have managed to get on that list,” added Joselin Casillas.