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Families share support, good times at Driscoll's annual Transplant Reunion

Brothers Dondi, 13 (left), and Mark Maldonado, 12, who have both had kidney transplants at Driscoll, attended the annual Transplant Reunion with their family.
Brothers Dondi, 13 (left), and Mark Maldonado, 12, who have both had kidney transplants at Driscoll, attended the annual Transplant Reunion with their family.
Brothers Dondi and Mark Maldonado, 13 and 12 years old, became part of the Driscoll family when they underwent kidney transplants at the hospital. On Saturday, May 7, they and their family attended the annual Transplant Reunion at the Texas State Aquarium. The event, a celebration for Driscoll's transplant patients and their families, featured food, games, fellowship and lots of good old-fashioned running around.

Dondi and Mark both have juvenile nephronophthisis, a childhood genetic kidney disease in which there is progressive destruction of the kidneys and eventual kidney failure. Mark had his transplant in 2008 and Dondi had his last November. They are among 41 children who have had kidney transplants at Driscoll Children's Hospital since 2007 and the second pair of siblings to have had the procedure at the hospital.

Dondi and Mark's parents, Roger and Cindy Maldonado, have four other children. It was a stressful time for the family when the boys had to come to Driscoll first for dialysis treatment and then transplant surgery.

"It's hard when your children are going through something like that and they're in the hospital," Cindy Maldonado said. "Sometimes I felt like I was getting overwhelmed but I had to stay strong for my kids. The strength of my husband and the people at the hospital are what kept me going."

Knowing other people in the same situation also helped. Cindy Maldonado said transplant families share a special bond and support each other through their experiences.

"I've met a lot of families here," she said of Driscoll's Kidney Center. "One family we became good friends with. We talk and make sure they're doing OK."

The Maldonados appreciate the Transplant Reunion because it brings everyone together, including the children.

"It lets the kids know they're as normal as anyone else," Cindy Maldonado said. "They like to catch up with each other like the parents do."

Large tents were set up in front of the Aquarium for the Transplant Reunion. The sprawling lawn has been an ideal location for the event for the past two years.

Transplant Coordinator Anita Rosales said the staff at Driscoll's Kidney Center enjoys putting the reunion together for the patients.

"It is our way of celebrating them and their new gift. We like to see each and every one of them. Many of them live in the Rio Grande Valley and make the trip to the reunion because they enjoy the camaraderie and the activities so much."

Besides the other transplant families, Cindy Maldonado said the reunion was a good chance for her to visit with her sons' medical staff from Driscoll.

"I definitely feel like I have a bond with the staff - the nurses, Dr. (Samhar) Al-Akash and Anita (Rosales) especially. I feel like they care about people 100 percent."

Contact Information

Driscoll Children's Hospital
3533 S. Alameda Street
Corpus Christi, Texas 78411
Phone: (361) 694-5000

For appointments, assistance and physician referrals in:
Corpus Christi: (361) 694-4700 or (800) DCH-LOVE

For TTY Deaf Messaging Connect to TTY Interpretation by dialing
(800) 735-2989
Staff members have the privilege of watching patients grow into healthy children, post-transplant. Millie was transplanted in 2008 when she was just two years old.
Kidney transplant recipient, Logan, reunites with physicians like transplant surgeon, Stephen Almond, M.D., who gave him a second chance at life.
Transplant recipient, Claudia, celebrated her transplant with Driscoll staff and physicians and enjoyed a day of fun and games at the aquarium.
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