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IPS teacher donating kidney to help new friend

Rocio Cisneros and Latonia Fleming pose in their bounce shoes.

Rocio Cisneros believes in helping others in need. In fact, when she learned that a new friend needed assistance, the English as a New Language teacher at Charles Warren Fairbanks School 105 quickly offered to become a living kidney donor.

Cisneros is now preparing mentally for the physical and mental challenges of providing a kidney to Latonia Fleming in just a few weeks. The pair met a year ago at Power P Bounce, a local gym.

“When Latonia said she was needing a kidney due to organ problems, she mentioned that she was O positive,” Cisneros said. “I told her I was too, and I would give her one of mine. But I didn’t think we’d be a match even though we had the same blood types. I did the test and it worked out.

“Even if I wasn’t compatible, I was willing to try with someone else,” she said. “I know some people are hesitant and scared, but just helping someone is so important. But it’s not for everyone. I get that.”

Cisneros is aware the number of Americans needing an organ transplant continues to grow, but the number of organs available to transplant is not keeping up. The average patient, depending on where they live, waits between three and five years for a donated kidney from a deceased individual.

According to the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, there were only 5,971 living donor kidney transplants performed in 2021. Another 18,699 transplants came from deceased kidney donors. Altogether, this is 24,670 kidney transplants in 2021.

Currently, there are more than 89,876 individuals waiting for a kidney transplant nationwide. This population makes up the vast majority of the total 105,923 individuals in the nation in need of an organ transplant.

“I’m really glad that it worked out for us,” said Cisneros, who is in her 10th year with Indianapolis Public Schools after earning her bachelor and master’s degrees at IUPUI (and will be returning to the campus soon to pursue a second master’s degree in Urban Education Leadership). “Latonia has become a great friend. She was the first person to really welcome me to the gym and we’ve grown closer since.”

In the past few weeks, Cisneros and Fleming have gained a bit of notoriety for the upcoming shared experience. WTHR-13 profiled the pair, showcasing not only their friendship but also their workouts.

“I love to run a couple of times a week and do the bounce classes every other day,” Cisneros said. “Teaching is very stressful, but my exercise routine helps a great deal at the end of the day to de-stress.”

Cisneros knows that she’ll have to take a short break from bounce classes, which are intense cardiovascular workouts that combine dance moves and running and jumping around, but the results will be well worth it.

“I’ll probably be a little sore for a while, but I am committed to this,” she said. “I think it’s important that we all do something to help others.”