Liver, kidney, and heart: 19-year-old reunites with surgeon months after 3rd organ transplant

ByTara Campbell KGO logo
Monday, July 24, 2023
Bay Area teen beats odds after 3 separate organ transplants
A San Leandro teen is beating the odds receiving three separate organ transplants at different points in his life. And most recently, a new heart.

SAN LEANDRO, Calif. -- A 19-year-old man from California was reunited with the surgeon who performed his heart transplant, the third organ he had replaced in his young life.

Last week, Joseph Sanchez and Dr. Michael Ma, of Stanford Medicine Children's Health, shared a hug outside of the hospital where, four months earlier, Sanchez walked out of the doors with his new heart.

"When I saw Dr. Ma, I was like, 'That is the man that saved my son's life,'" Sanchez's mother, Elena Munoz, said.

Munoz has seen her son through three organ transplants throughout his life.

"JoJo, as we've affectionately called him over the years, he's been through a lot. It's both a miracle in what he's been able to get through," Dr. Ma said.

At just seven months old, Joseph was diagnosed with cancer and soon needed a liver transplant.

Seven years later, he received a new kidney, and four months ago, a heart.

"I don't think in our history, we've ever done three sequential transplants like this. These are three of the most major organs that are vital to a persons survival," Dr. Ma said.

Joseph's medical conditions have also caused some developmental struggles, but it is his ability to continue to emerge with a smile that sets him apart.

"He goes into the situation, even though we know it's a scary situation, he never shows it too much. You know he's apprehensive as he should be, but he's got a really good attitude," Dr. Ma said.

"God has sent us wonderful people. From the nurses, the doctors, the music therapists, the music therapists," Munoz said.

But amidst the joy, there is still some fear.

"He could have rejection. They can stop working right. So I think that's my biggest fear," Munoz said.

And so the family takes it day-by-day.

"Because of the organ donors, they made this possible. I saw him graduate, kindergarten, elementary, middle school, high school, and I hope to see him graduate college," Munoz said.