River Hills resident Jisselle Hidalgo is hoping to find a kidney donor through Tampa General Hospital’s paired exchange program.

The average wait time for an organ from the transplant list can take three years or longer. For 25-year-old River Hills resident Jisselle Hidalgo, that time can feel like an eternity.

Hidalgo was a child when diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a disease in which scar tissue develops on the small parts of the kidneys that filter waste from the blood.

Her kidney function began to slowly decline. At age 13, while living in New York, she was put on dialysis, a procedure that helps remove waste, salt and extra water from building up in the body. Her name was added to the kidney transplant list, and a month later she received news that a match had been found.

Life returned to normal for Hidalgo, who moved with her family to River Hills in 2012. She attended Newsome High School, graduated in 2015, began taking classes at Hillsborough Community College and she got a job at Creative World.

Then, in 2018, she noticed swelling in her ankles and puffiness around her eyes, and she was waking up nauseous.

“I made an appointment with my kidney doctor and after running tests, they told me that my body was rejecting the kidney and that I was going to need another transplant,” she said.

In October 2018, she received the news that she was in complete kidney failure. Months later, she started emergency hemodialysis. Doctors inserted a catheter so she could receive peritoneal dialysis at home, where, for nine hours a night, cleansing fluids flow through the catheter to remove waste products from her blood.

Hidalgo, who was added to the kidney transplant list in September 2019, hasn’t been as lucky this time around. A possible match was found last May, but she was passed over because she had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

She is hoping that a kidney will be found through Tampa General Hospital’s paired exchange program, in which a living donor who isn’t compatible with the person to whom they want to donate to instead donates to a different matching recipient and, in exchange, the donor’s recipient receives a living donor kidney from someone in the same situation. Both recipients get a living donor kidney through paired exchanged donors.

“My doctors have told me that finding a live direct living donor is going to be challenging,” she said. “My transplant team has encouraged me to try to find a living donor willing to participate in the kidney exchange program.”

Hidalgo, who lives with her parents, feels like her life is on hold. She dreams of traveling, going back to school and having children. “It’s a waiting game right now,” she said.

For more information about the living kidney donor program at Tampa General Hospital, call 813-844-5669 or email it at livingkidneydonor@tgh.org.

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MIchelle Caceres has been writing for the Osprey Observer for seventeen years. She enjoys writing human interest pieces about inspiring members of the community who are working to better our community. She lives in FishHawk Ranch with her husband and recently became an empty-nester. When not writing, Michelle is serving her church community, reading and enjoying Florida's weather.