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A Friend in Need

University Communications

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Summer 2001
a friend in need
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In Danny Monarrez' darkest hour, two lifelong friends and fellow Bruins were there for him
By Amy Ko '97
Photography by Warren Mantooth


Every shallow breath is an exhausting effort. The racking, bloody coughs and pain in his chest are excruciating. His blood pressure plummets dangerously low.

At age 27, cystic fibrosis is claiming Danny Monarrez '96. He is going to die, and he doesn't have much time. His only hope: new lungs. There are no more months or weeks or days left to wait for a tragedy to claim someone else's life so he may inherit their healthy lungs. The need is too urgent. He needs a miracle. He needs friends. He needs them now.

Saturday, April 14: Jorge Ronquillo '99 picks up the phone. On the other end is Danny's wife, Claudia. He's slipping away, she sobs. He needs a donor.

"Okay, I'll do it," Jorge, 23, tells her without hesitation. "Danny's always been like a brother to me. I didn't even have to think about it."

Marc Trovatore '95 doesn't hesitate either. The same age as Danny, they have been friends since junior high school. "The doctor said, 'When he leaves the hospital this time, he'll either be dead or he'll have new lungs.'"

In a heartbeat both men determine to literally give up a part of themselves to help their friend. Each will donate a portion of one lung -- in a still-experimental living-donor lobar transplant -- so that Danny Monarrez might live.

"His life was in danger and I had something that could help to save him," Marc says. "His children need a father. He's a good man. A good teacher. He's been fighting this on his own for 27 years; I couldn't just stand by idly and watch him die if there was something I could do."

In spite of his lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis -- the progressive hereditary disease that afflicts 30,000 people in the United States, thickening the mucus in their lungs and creating a fertile breeding ground for stubborn infections that eventually kill them -- Danny is, in one respect, lucky. Because he has the universal AB blood type, he can receive a tissue transplant from just about anyone. And, at a slight 5 feet 6 inches and 114 pounds, it is not too difficult to find donors (there are, in fact, many family and friends wanting to volunteer for Danny) at least several inches taller -- a necessary criteria in a living-donor transplant.

And, perhaps more importantly, Danny has Jorge and Marc. Not only are they perfect friends, they are a perfect match.


2005 The Regents of the University of California