NEWS | April 20, 2020

Kidney transplant for teen made possible by UC Davis Health doctors, in-house lab scientists


Even in the time of a devastating global pandemic, good fortune can still shine. For 17-year-old Alex Gonzalez, who has known since last November that his kidney was failing, that life-changing call came in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

Alex Gonzalez received a new kidney on March 22. Alex Gonzalez received a new kidney on March 22.

Alex was scheduled to start dialysis treatment, three times a week, beginning in April. The only way to avoid going on dialysis was if a kidney donor became available, which was highly unlikely because UC Davis Medical Center had stopped accepting organs from live donors because of virus transmission risks.

The North Highlands teenager and his family would have to wait on the transplant list and hope for a kidney from a deceased donor. It was just another trial to endure and overcome for Alex, who was born without kidneys and helicoptered to UC Davis Medical Center as an infant, clinging to life.

Back then, he received a kidney from his mother and would grow up to be a relatively healthy boy and young adult. Eventually, however, he would need another kidney.

All through March, Alex’s energy waned and spirits ebbed as the world grappled with the coronavirus pandemic. But a kidney fortunately became available, and Alex underwent the much-needed operation on March 22. The physician who performed the surgery – Richard Perez, UC Davis Health’s chief of transplant surgery – also transplanted the kidney when Alex was 18 months old.

Now, Alex once again has high hopes for his future, free from a grueling regimen of dialysis sessions – thanks to Perez, Chief of Pediatric Nephrology Lavjay Butani and the quick turnaround of UC Davis Health’s indefatigable COVID-19 testing team.