TAMPA, Fla. – 73-year-old Leonides Naranjo is back at Tampa General Hospital today, just over two years after her kidney transplant surgery.

“Me and my daughter and my grandchildren and my son-in-law, we make plans to go any place and we don’t have to worry about it. I have peace of mind,” said Naranjo.

During her five years on dialysis, though, that certainly wasn’t the case.

That transplant gave this Cuban native a second chance at life, and she’s thankful for it every day.

But, the process could have been a bit more comfortable, she says, if she could have communicated with doctors and hospital staff in Spanish, her native language.

“It’s easier, you know, even though we try so hard, but it’s not fluent,” said Naranjo.

Sixty percent of people on the transplant list in Florida are minorities, and 17% of them are Hispanic.

That is why, as the number six transplant hospital in the country,  Tampa General Hospital felt it was time to address that need.

“So what we want to create with this program is a multi-level approach where kidney doctors, surgeons, social workers – they don’t only speak the language, but they understand the unique characteristic of the Hispanic culture,” said Dr. Luis Beltran, a transplant nefrologist at TGH.

Dr. Beltran says this is all in an effort to help patients feel more comfortable and to create relationships with the people who are saving their lives.

“Communication is most important between the physician and the patient because the patient is basically giving us all their hope and their expectations, so we have to be knowledgeable and respectful of their background, their cultural characteristics, their beliefs, and even their language,” said Dr. Beltran.

And even though Leonides’ transplant is done and she is living a happ and healthy life, she’s thankful to see the hospital creating these opportunities.

“It’s going to be very great for all the Spanish people that have been on the wait list hoping to have a new kidney, new life, and enjoy it,” said Naranjo.

The program is set to launch by the end of the month.

It will initially focus on patients receiving kidney transplants, but Dr. Beltran hopes to see it expand throughout the entire transplant department.