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Irene Garza: An act of unselfishness

Kidney transplant strengthens bond between ‘sisters’

Published: Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Josh Peckler –
Irene Garza of Lake in the Hills gets a kiss from her dog, Love, at her home. Garza donated one of her kidneys to a friend five years ago. The friend continues to do well today, and Garza has become an honorary member of her friend’s family.

For Irene Garza, the choice was easy.

Her friend Lucille Monroy’s kidneys were failing. Her own were healthy.

“[My mind] was made up from the very first day she told me that she needed a kidney,” said Garza, of Lake in the Hills. “From that day forward, I knew that if nobody could do it from her family, I would go ahead and do it.”

Garza and Monroy have been friends since they met working on the tarmac at American Airlines in the mid-1990s. The two soon became good friends, going to concerts or out dancing together outside of work. Monroy introduced her to her family.

At first when Monroy came to Garza with the news of her kidney problems, Garza was in disbelief. But she knew she wanted to help.

“I was just shocked that she told me that if I need help, she can help me,” Monroy said

At the time, Monroy’s family was being tested to see whether anyone was a match to give Monroy a kidney. Two months later, after nobody in Monroy’s family turned out to be compatible, Garza went through the testing process.

She was a match.

Had she not have been, Lucille would have been staring at dialysis. Doctors told her that it could take five more years to find a random donor.

“She’s heaven sent,” said Mona Monroy, Lucille’s sister. “My sister would have had to undergo kidney dialysis. It’s a lot of pain and suffering, and it has to be done twice or three times a week.

“She’s heaven sent to us and we are forever grateful to her.”

Garza felt nerves only as she was being wheeled toward surgery.

By then, she knew she was going through with it.

“It was easy for me to do this,” Garza said. “Lucy has such a big heart. She’s a sweetheart, and I was really glad that I was able to help her out with this, make her life a little easier.”

The two work physical jobs for American Airlines, lifting and carrying cargo. Garza took six weeks off to recover. Monroy was out for months.

But she’s healthy now. And with the six-year anniversary of the surgery approaching this month, the two are closer than ever.

“We’re like family,” Monroy said. “It’s like we’re sisters now.”

They joke that Monroy now is half Mexican to go along with her Filipino background.

Since the Monroys took her in, Garza says she’s half Filipino to accompany her Mexican background.

Garza attends all of the family’s get-togethers.

“Every time that we have a family gathering, she’s a part of it,” Mona Monroy said. “She’s like an adopted sister.

“She didn’t even ask for anything in return. She’s such a selfless person.”

The Garza lowdown

Who is she? Lake in the Hills resident who donated a kidney to a good friend

Hometown: Chicago

Favorite movie: “A Beautiful Mind”

Favorite food: chicken

Favorite weekend activity: Anything that has to do with music – concerts, dancing, etc.

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