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Garry Renteria – Liver Transplant Success Story

A friend's gift of life – Garry Renteria, liver transplant success story at The Liver Institute at Methodist Dallas

Garry Renteria, his wife Dorelia, and Rosemary YbarraFrom the spring 2012 edition of Shine magazine

Garry Renteria had been on the liver transplant waiting list for years and had also looked into the possibility of obtaining a living donor transplant. His good friend Rosemary Ybarra volunteered to be his donor because they both had the same blood type. At the time, the friends didn't know how soon Ybarra would have that opportunity.

"Rosemary was more than a friend; she was family," Renteria says. "In fact, she introduced me to my wife, Dorelia."

After his discharge from the U.S. Navy in 1983, Renteria had gone to a dance where he met Ybarra, who in turn introduced him to his future wife.

Ybarra became a natural addition to the Renteria family – so much so that they were all planning an end-of-summer vacation to South Padre Island. Then they received the call that changed everything: While driving home from work in August 2011, Ybarra had a brain aneurysm that burst. She was pronounced brain-dead the next day.

"The news was devastating," Renteria says. "We couldn't believe our friend was gone."

The blessing that remained

The next act of courage and compassion by Ybarra's family forever changed Renteria's life.

"Rosemary's mom and sisters told me they couldn't do anything to bring Rosemary back, but they could fulfill her wishes," he says. "Her family said Rosemary had wanted to bless me with her liver, and they had decided to donate her liver directly to me."

Renteria admits he had some reservations about the transplant and asked his physician, Alejandro Mejia, MD, an independently practicing transplant surgeon on the medical staff at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, how long his current liver would last.

"Dr. Mejia said it was hard to determine, but I knew that a lesion recently found on my liver could turn out to be cancer," Renteria says. After carefully discussing it with his family, Renteria decided to go ahead with the transplant.

"It went very well, and I feel great," Renteria says.

Thanks to outstanding care from the medical staff and nurses, his six days in the hospital were far easier than past surgeries he'd experienced, and his symptoms have subsided.

After the transplant, Dr. Mejia further affirmed Renteria's choice to have the procedure. Not only was Ybarra's liver extremely healthy and exceptionally compatible with Renteria's, but the lesion on his old liver was indeed cancerous, capable of causing catastrophic liver failure.

Gratitude and heroism

"Rosemary was such a giving person," Renteria says, adding that her other organs, tissues, and bones were also donated to save and improve the lives of grateful recipients.

Inspired by this faithful friendship, many people, including the Renterias' own daughters and extended family, have registered as organ donors.

"We have lost a real hero," Renteria says. "Rosemary dedicated herself to helping others. She gave her all, even to the end."