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Brother & sister celebrate kidney transplant

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Tulare County brother and sister are celebrating a big anniversary this week.

It was 25 years ago that Maria Grijalva became one of the Valley's first kidney transplant patients.

Brother John Arriola says giving one of his kidneys to his sister was one of the best decisions he's ever made.

Action News was there in April of 1987 right before Maria Grijalva and her brother John Arriola were about to undergo transplant surgery.

Maria's kidneys had shut down and she was dependent on a dialysis machine to filter out the toxins in her body. At the time her two children were seven and five. "My kids knew, I mean they were very little, but they knew I was very sick. I didn't think I was going to be alive to see them graduate from high school, much less live to see my two granddaughters."

25 years later, the brother/sister duo are both fifty something, and feeling fabulous. But back then, transplant surgery was considered cutting edge, and wasn't even performed in the Valley, they had to travel to Los Angeles, and the recovery process was months long.

John Arriola, who donated one of his kidneys to his sister said, "Now it's all laparoscopic. It's a small incision down below your belly button. I've got a huge scar on my belly to the left side of my body, and they had to take ribs out."

Both Maria and John now serve as ambassadors for the California Transplant Donor Network. They tell their own story and urge others to consider donating their organs.

John explained, "There are thousands of people waiting for... you name it... on a list that's maybe six to eight years long that are waiting for a transplant."

Because John gave part of himself to his sister, Maria didn't have to wait long for a new chance at life. 25 years later, she couldn't be more grateful.

(Copyright ©2014 KFSN-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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