LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Fifty years ago, Tommy Hoag’s kidneys were failing.
His only hope for survival was a kidney transplant, but the procedure was so new that it had never before been attempted at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
“There were a lot of naysayers,” said Dr. Richard Fine, who led the team that would successfully operate on Hoag.
Clearly, Fine and his team were undeterred by the naysayers.
So at 6 years old, Hoag became the hospital’s first kidney transplant recipient. His father was the donor.
“It was a father’s love,” Fine said. “He passed away in 1998, but I still have his kidney.”
Hoag is now the longest surviving pediatric kidney transplant recipient in the U.S.
“The fact that I am here 50 years later is amazing,” he said. “I keep saying ‘amazing,’ but it is.”
It’s a milestone his doctor could only dream of at the time of the surgery.
“It was a dream, but we never thought it would be a reality,” Fine said. “I think Tommy is the epitome of what is possible.”
Hoag’s story has also inspired the hospital’s latest kidney transplant patient — 14-year-old Gemma Lafontant.
“It’s amazing that his kidneys have lasted 50 years,” she said. “That could be me.”
Already, Gemma is back home recovering just two weeks after her surgery. In 1967, Hoag couldn’t leave his hospital room for six months.
“It’s inspiring to see what Children’s Hospital has done to pave the way for my daughter,” Gemma’s mother, Charlene, said.