The Perfect Match - Mother Donates Kidney to Son

Transplant Patient receives kidney
2015 HackensackUMC
Life hasn’t always been easy for Michael Fernandez, 22, of Passaic.  He was born with multiple abnormalities, and has had several reconstructive surgeries since the age of two.  Michael is also developmentally disabled. As a teenager, Michael was diagnosed with renal disease.
“It was very hard for my family especially after he had already gone through so much growing up and he was doing well, so we thought,” said Karina Fernandez, Michael’s mother. “His nephrologist at that point told us both his kidneys were beginning to deteriorate slowly and were only working at 45 percent.”
Michael’s condition continued to deteriorate and in January of 2014, Michael’s nephrologist decided it was time for him to be placed on a transplant list. Michael’s father had recently been diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes, making him ineligible to be a donor.  But, Karina didn’t have any medical obstacles and says she didn’t think twice about donating a kidney to her youngest son.  
“At first, we were heartbroken and I was in denial that Mikey, who has gone through so much since he was born, needed a kidney transplant.  But, I was ready. I was the first and last to get tested. I was Mikey’s perfect match,” said Karina.
The Fernandez family delivered the good news to Michael at a surprise party at a restaurant.  Michael thought it was a birthday party for someone else. 
“When he realized it was a party for him and that I was a perfect match, he started crying. We were so happy, Karina shared.”
On March 17, 2014 the transplant surgery was performed by James W. Lim, M.D., FACS, program director and chief, Transplant Surgery and Muhammad Irfan Saeed, M.D, transplant surgeon in the Organ Transplantation Division at HackensackUMC. The operation was a complete success.  
“Most people don’t realize how debilitating kidney disease is,” said Dr. Lim. “From a quality of life perspective, a transplant can make all the difference in the world for a patient with failing kidneys.  Because of the living donation from his mother, Michael was given a second opportunity to live a more fulfilling life.”
One year later, Michael says how much better he feels thanks to the life-saving transplant and is now starting to live a normal life. As part of his daily routine, Michael takes anti-rejection medicines and immune-suppressant drugs to prevent the rejection of his new kidney. Karina describes her son as the “happy-go-lucky guy who everyone knows at the transplant center.”
“I go to the gym every day and I feel great,” said Michael. “I feel like a different person and it’s all thanks to my mom.”
Karina calls her son her “Gentle Giant,” and says he’s the true hero.  Karina is also an advocate for organ donation and often shares the story of their mother and son bond.  
“Knowing I gave my son life, giving birth to him and then having a second chance to give him life again has been beyond miraculous for me.  Every time I look at my son, I am reminded of my favorite quote: Your sacrifice is someone’s opportunity.  Your sacrifice - your donation is someone’s opportunity to live,” said Karina.
In 2013, eight kidney transplants were performed at HackensackUMC.  Last year, 17 were performed.  There have been four live kidney donor transplants since May 2013. For more information about the Organ Transplantation Division at HackensackUMC, please call 551-996-2608 or visit



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