On Tuesday I walked proudly across the street toward the Firefighters’ Memorial in Capitol Park, adjacent to the State Capitol in Sacramento, California. I spotted the festive blue and white balloons and became filled with excitement for the event I was about to witness. I looked up at the beautiful, blue, California sky with the sun shining brilliantly through the soaring palm trees. I stopped, looked upwards, closed my eyes, and took a cleansing breath, filling my lungs with the refreshing morning air while the cool breeze swept across my face. I knew it was going to be a special day.
I continued to the news conference where Donate Life California was about to launch the Living Donation California Statewide Initiative. I waved excitedly as the first person I saw was Ann Lopez writer, actress, film producer, and kidney donor to ex-husband George Lopez. I was smiling ear-to-ear as we wrapped our arms around each other in a warm embrace. Ann and I share a special bond as we rode on the Donate Life Float together in the 2011 Rose Parade.
As the event began, I stood behind people seated in white chairs and listened to the amazing line-up of speakers, such as:
Bryan Stewart – Chairman of the Board of Advisors, Living Donation California.
Lisa Stocks – Board President, Donate Life California.
Dr. Jeffrey L. Veale – Transplant Surgeon, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
Dr. Richard Pan – Health Committee Chairman, California State Assembly.
Ann Lopez –Writer/Producer/Actress, Living Kidney Donor.
Kelly Wright – Altruistic Kidney Donor.
JePahl White – Recipient in a Kidney Chain.
Tad Suwa – Sacramento Firefighter, Kidney Transplant Candidate.
It was emotional and compelling to hear the touching and personal stories and to learn of this amazing initiative. It is the first program of its kind: Living Donation California will serve as an information and referral service to encourage residents to be altruistic kidney donors to patients suffering from end-stage renal failure. It was one of those days where one is overwhelmed by how wonderful life is and how awesome it is to be alive. I was surrounded by spectacular human beings, from surgeons to firefighters; employees that work tirelessly for the cause; kidney donors; kidney recipients; and those on dialysis waiting for a kidney.
This initiative is vital and hits home for me because at 19 years old I was too sick to be put on the transplant waiting list. I needed a kidney to survive. In my time of dire need I required a living donor to stay alive. At one point during the news conference I was overwhelmed with gratefulness and reached over to my dear friend Tom Mone, CEO of OneLegacy, who was standing next to me. I wrapped my arm around him, looked up and we smiled at one another. My heart was overflowing with joy because it is a miracle that I am still alive today and able to witness such a monumental occasion. Following the news conference we all viewed the honest and powerful worldwide premier of a documentary called “The Chain” produced by Participant Media. It chronicles the stories of an altruistic kidney donor and the chain of kidney transplants started by her donation. Please visit www.livingdonationcalifornia.org to learn more and be inspired by this new initiative.
This was such a hopeful and miraculous day that it made me forget about my current health issues. It is amazing how powerful positive energy can be. This event was a beautiful reminder that there is hope. Hope for a healthier tomorrow. Hope for a brighter future. Hope for those of us with kidney disease. Hope that with initiatives like Living Donation California we will not be tethered to a dialysis machine. Hope that by the generosity of altruistic donors we can receive a second chance at life.
Let’s never lose hope.
The link below is KCRA-TV coverage of Tracy Bryan, Public Relations Director at Sierra Donor Services, and Ann Lopez, kidney donor to former husband George Lopez, discussing the launch of Living Donation California.