MIAMI - They don't share a language, but Dale Jasko and Omar Figueroa have a connection more important than a common tongue. Their kidney exchange is a part of Florida history.
"We share my life," said Jasko. "Without him, I don't have the extended life that I have. (It's) very simple."
Jasko and Figueroa are just one pair in a three-way kidney exchange that happened at Jackson Memorial Hospital on July 9. It's the first of its kind in Florida.
The recipients met their donors for the first time Thursday.
So how does a three-way kidney exchange work? Patients like Jasko needed a transplant. His family members were willing to donate, but they were unable to be a match. However, one willing relative was able to be matched with others who needed transplants.
Figueroa gave a kidney to Jasko. Jasko's 22-year-old son, Jonathan, donated to Alana Gonzalez, a wife and mother.
"Same concept as me and my father," explained Jonathan. "(Dale) gets to see me growing up. (Alana) gets to see her son growing up. I'm grateful I could do that for her."
Gonzalez's husband, Gabriel, gave a kidney to Figueroa's wife, Mary.
In all, six people took part in six life-saving surgeries. The four-hour procedure had to happen at the same time.
"All donor surgeries have to start at the same time," said Dr. Giselle Guerra, medical director of the Living Kidney Donor Program. "(We) can't have a donor back out. If they back out, it breaks the pair and we can't proceed."
They posed for pictures together, strangers no more. The doctors, donors and recipients are much more like family now. They're not blood relatives, but almost.
"There is a bond between us -- a physical bond," said Jasko of Figueroa. "I'll carry him around in my body for the rest of my life."
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