LOS ANGELES – Kidney transplant recipient, Correctional Officer Gaston Alexander Benjamin, the single father of four young children who works transporting inmates to medical appointments at California State Prison-Los Angeles County, will be released from UCLA Medical Center Saturday, March 12, after receiving a kidney transplant from Calipatria State Prison Correctional Officer Luis Hernandez. Both officers are experiencing a successful recovery.
Hernandez, a dad, volunteer coach and volunteer California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) “Tuff Teddy” mascot for kids’ events, learned that the fellow officer might not survive without a kidney transplant from reading a CDCR flyer seeking potential donors. Cameras captured the emotional first meeting and part of the medical procedure. (Video dubs are available from UCLA.)
“I am extremely proud of Luis Hernandez for his exceptional act in donating the gift of life to Gaston Benjamin,” said Calipatria State Prison Warden Leland McEwen. “I am delighted that the operation was successful and that Officer Benjamin will be able to maintain a fruitful life with his family, enjoy his children’s embraces and continue to be a valuable member of our department.”
“We are thrilled that this donor operation was a success and that Officer Benjamin’s life was saved,” said Warden Brenda Cash, California State Prison, Los Angeles County, in Lancaster (LAC). “Officer Hernandez’ act of human kindness is a great reflection upon his character and demonstrates that there are people willing to make extraordinary sacrifices for one another. I would also like to express our sincere gratitude to Officer Hernandez, his family, and the staff at Calipatria State Prison.”
Officer Benjamin’s medical condition was very serious and he was in desperate need of a kidney transplant. On October 21, 2010, LAC Warden Cash sent out a “Now You Know” flyer to all CDCR institutions indicating Correctional Officer Gaston Benjamin’s need for a kidney. Officer Hernandez was a prospective match and subjected himself to a battery of tests to determine eligibility and compatibility.
In January 2011 Officer Luis Hernandez was cleared to donate the gift of life. On Monday, February 28, Luis Hernandez and Gaston Benjamin met for the first time at UCLA Medical Center during their pre-operative appointment. This emotional encounter was witnessed by family members of both Luis and Gaston. At first glance both men embraced each other and expressed heartfelt thanks and emotions.
On March 8, Luis’ kidney was successfully transplanted into Gaston. The UCLA staff stated that the transplant went well and immediately began to function at the conclusion of the procedure.
Officer Hernandez has donated countless hours coaching sports teams in his local community and has been actively involved with Imperial County’s Shop with a Cop since its inception. The last few years Luis has dressed up as “Tuff Teddy” at events like Shop with a Cop.
Both officers are grateful to UCLA for their skills and diligence in the successful transplant procedure that saved the life of Officer Benjamin.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARCH 11, 2011
CONTACT: LUIS PATINO, CDCR (916) 445-4950
ENRIQUE RIVERO, UCLA ( (310) 597-5768