Oklahoma teen awaiting kidney transplant is happy to be back in the classroom

Oklahoma City teenager can take some classes online while receiving kidney dialysis treatment.
by Bryan Painter Published: August 26, 2012

Jennifer Ochoa is shy, but certain subjects trigger a smile on the 16-year-old's face.

Angels, art and school have just such an effect on Jennifer.

Her bedroom, from headboard to pictures to stuffed toys, is decorated with about 300 angels.

Whether using regular pencils or colored pencils, she loves to draw. She says it relaxes her.

And for Jennifer, school falls in that “you don't miss it until it is gone” category. Last year it was gone from her daily routine. But as of a few weeks ago, it is back.

She's a freshman at Capitol Hill High School taking core classes in the classroom two full days and three half-days a week. What about the other half-days? This week she's scheduled to begin taking courses such as geography, Oklahoma history and digital art online while she's receiving dialysis treatment in the dialysis unit at The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center.

Jennifer never was sick. She hadn't been in a hospital since her birth in August 1996, her mother, Patricia Ochoa, said. But then, in August 2009, Jennifer had flu-like symptoms. That's what most everyone assumed it was at first.

Her condition worsened, and about September 2009, she was diagnosed with microscopic polyangiitis, a vascular disease. In her case, it led to kidney failure. She's now on a waiting list for a kidney transplant.

In 2011, her illness led to complications that kept her home, and she missed her ninth-grade year.

“I missed mostly everything, and I knew I was going to have to start ninth grade again; I didn't know what to do,” she said. “Then I went to Capitol Hill this year, and they got everything set up and they told me I could still be a full-time student. I tried it, and I like it.

“The kids are nice, and I have new friends. And I have a lot of nice teachers. They know what's wrong with me, and they really try to help me as much as they can.”

Important to return

Patricia Ochoa said that although her daughter wasn't depressed last year, Jennifer was feeling down a lot. Her life was focused on the illness she was battling, and she fought it at home. Then she started improving a little. The teen, her mother, as well as doctors and staff in the kidney unit, thought it was very important that Jennifer return to the classroom as much as possible.

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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Every day to her is a chance to see something beautiful, whether it's the sunrise or the colors in the sky. She actually knows that she's going to live.”

Patricia Ochoa

Mother of Jennifer Ochoa

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