McALLEN — In 1997, Eliseo Borrego realized that due to hypertension, his kidney was no longer functional. As a result, he was put on dialysis and was added to the line of thousands of Texans waiting for an organ transplant, with the average life expectancy of a dialysis patient being 5-10 years.

In 2002, the Elsa native thought the waiting game was over. He was paired with a kidney donor and made several bus trips to Houston to get the transplant done.

Two years later, his body had rejected the kidney and he was back on dialysis again.

In 2009, after another five years on dialysis, he got a second chance. He got another kidney transplant, now at McAllen Medical Center. Borrego celebrated his 9th anniversary with his new kidney on Saturday at the Messages in the Sky Ceremony at the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance’s McAllen office.

Over 50 family members of deceased organ donors released balloons with the stories of their loved ones attached to them on dove-shaped note cards. Borrego looked up at the balloons and smiled; ever since he got his new kidney, he’s grown a new appreciation for life.

“Life is beautiful,” Borrego said. “I wake up in the morning and see the sun, and it has more significance now. I appreciate the birds chirping, the leaves bustling. It’s a beautiful day.”

Today, there are over 11,000 people in Texas waiting for an organ transplant. Of those, 5,238 are Hispanic.

Edwina Garza, communications director for Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, said donors are more likely to match with people of their same ethnicity. The problem, however, is that not enough Hispanics are registered organ donors.

“We’re more likely to need a transplant than to actually become an organ donor,” Garza said. “We always ask folks to consider the other.”

At the ceremony, portraits of the deceased organ donors were set on a table. Before the balloons were released, each family member got to hear the stories of their loved ones told.

Olivia Meza was at the ceremony on behalf of her father, who got a double transplant several years ago. She doesn’t know the person who gave her father a liver and kidney, nor the other seven people whose loved ones received transplants, but she said Saturday’s event was her opportunity to thank them.

“All I could be was grateful,” Meza said. “If it wasn’t for your loved ones, we wouldn’t have people who lived another birthday, holiday or saw their grandkids. It means a lot.”

The average organ donor can save up to eight lives. For more information on becoming an organ donor, visit: https://www.tosa1.org/donation.

emoreno@themonitor.com