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.


Comments (3)
  1. Congratulations! We have a family of 6 with kidney transplants. My husband has had his transplant 45 years now so he is close behind you. These are wonderful stories.

  2. I had My Kidney trnsplant in 1976 at age 5 i received a kidney from my father I am on my 42nd year and have never had any issues whatsoever I stopped taking my immunosupressent drugs 10 years after the transplant at age 15 I have been off them for 31 years

  3. Sam Mulkey says:

    BEFORE MEDICARE APPROVED TRANSPLANTS = June 1, 1971 – Dr. John C. McDonald transplanted my first kidney from a 99.9% living relative, my Sister, Pam. I am still researching any transplant patients who is still alive at 70 plus years. Reaching for a story that will be podcast in LA for Donate Life. Even though it was stage 4 in 2015, Dr. Daniel March, Baton Rouge, LA quickly had me accessed for another transplant. Which was successful in 2016, more than 3 years ago. I am very active now after regaining strength from knee replacement in 2017 and still take my grands on long driving trips. One more planned at Easter. If anyone knows of another survivor that is over 70 years old, please respond to this post or contact the Donate Life in Louisiana. Thanks

Leave a Reply