University Health Transplant Institute performed 70 living kidney donor transplants in 2023

The number is the highest volume year in the program history

SAN ANTONIO – The University Health Transplant Institute celebrated a major milestone and the team closed out 2023 by performing a total of 70 living kidney donor transplants, making it their highest volume year in its program history.

The program has given San Antonio resident Janie Rodriguez a second chance at life.

“Kidney disease, found out in 2017. It wasn’t as bad as, after COVID, it got really bad,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her right kidney and, in December 2022, she underwent surgery to remove it.

“After they removed the kidney, I became active on the transplant list,” Rodriguez said.

Everything changed after a close friend volunteered to be screened to be Rodriguez’s donor.

“She matched me at the beginning and then she didn’t match me because I had high antibodies,” Rodriguez said.

Her friend was offered to be part of an organ exchange program at the hospital and agreed.

In October 11, 2023, Rodriguez got a new kidney thanks to the team of transplant surgeons and health care professionals at the University Health Transplant Institute in San Antonio.

Rodriguez said her life changed drastically.

“My energy level is much higher now,” Rodriguez said.

This is just one of the programs at the hospital that are saving lives.

“We consider gender. We consider the antibody antigen. How well they will pair. We look at age. We have a pool of donors. We have a pool of recipients with those donors. We start to mix and match. And we find the best pairing,” said Dr. Elizabeth Thomas.

Dr. Elizabeth Thomas is a surgeon and director of the living donor program at the University Health Transplant Institute and part of the faculty at UT Health San Antonio.

She is proud of the team that performed 70 living kidney donor transplants last year.

“Living kidney donor transplants are the best quality kidney transplant a recipient can get. So to have that growth in our program just means more people got a better kidney and will have better outcomes,” Thomas said.

More than 103,000 men, women and children are on the National Transplant waiting list, according to the U.S. government’s organ donation statistics. Seventeen people die each day waiting for an organ transplant.

“In our community we know there’s a higher number of people with diabetes and hypertension and that means there’s more people with kidney disease and that means there’s more people in need of a kidney transplant,” Thomas said.

Rodriguez is grateful for this program and team. She is focusing on making healthy choices.

“Eating better. Incorporating more veggies. Less meat. Taking walks with granddaughter,” Rodriguez said.

If you are ready to sign up to be a living organ donor, you can do so by clicking here.

If you’d like more information about becoming an organ donor, go to

About the Authors

Tiffany Huertas is a reporter for KSAT 12 known for her in-depth storytelling and her involvement with the community.

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