I’m going to tell all about the story of my mom and how organ donation changed my life. My mom calls me her special miracle baby because in part I am here because a family chose to support organ donation and transplantation and donate their loved one’s liver to my mom on November 12, 2002. According to the stories I’ve been told since I can remember, my mom’s time was measured in hours, she was in a coma and not expected to make it. In fact, my brother, who was 6 at the time, was being brought to UCLA Medical Center to tell my mom good-bye when they got the call that a donor had been found. My mom was young and remained in the hospital for only 14 days.
It wasn’t that the doctor’s had told my mom not to have me, but she was cautioned against the possibility things could go wrong, determined, I arrived nearly 5 weeks early and perfectly healthy, although the doctor’s were right, it was tough on my mom and her new liver. She was hospitalized when I was just 16 weeks old with her first bout of rejection which the doctor’s were able to correct with medication. We laugh a lot about when I was tiny because a lot of my firsts happened at UCLA Medical Center, my first steps, my first words and so on simply because there are real ups and downs when you are a transplant patient. I learned early on about so many medical terms, sicknesses, treatments, I could navigate my way around the 8th floor of UCLA on my own and when I was tiny would hold my mom’s hand and we would take our daily walks around the nurse’s station like she was supposed to. My mom being a liver recipient has always been a part of my life.
In 2015, at age 10, I was getting ready to go through what my brother had gone through early on in his life, my mom had to have another liver transplant because she had autoimmune hepatitis resulting from disintegrating bile ducts. For the first time I had to think about the possibility of her not being at every school event, every pageant, every award ceremony and even just tucking me in and kissing me good night. After taking me across the country for 10 days so I could compete at my national level pageant, her body finally gave out, we came home and a day later she was in the hospital and we were all told she wouldn’t be coming home anytime soon. There was no recovery this time, she needed another transplant and wouldn’t leave the hospital without one. Although it was only 18 days before she was transplanted, those days were some of the hardest in my life. After all, I was raised knowing about all of this stuff, my mom is a nurse, she educated us about organ donation and transplantation, she was an Ambassador for One Legacy herself and did public speaking, ran in the Donate Life walks, I was scared, WE were scared. When my mom said that she was going to have another liver transplant I was really scared if she would make it out alive. I asked a lot of questions about why this had happened. Every night I cried myself to sleep because I missed her and didn’t know if she would be alive. I couldn’t see her everyday because I was in school and she was pretty far away from home. Just as she did, everyday we waited for that call, day after day it didn’t come. We would go visit and she would look more and more sick. She was forgetful, she lost the use of her legs, wasn’t eating, I overheard one of doctor’s telling my dad that her kidneys were shutting down. She had her live transplant on August 15th right before she went into surgery my whole family went and talked to her and I was still so scared that she wouldn’t make it. The surgery took 4-5 hours when the doctors had finally finished surgery our family got to go in and see her she was still unconscious, not breathing on her own and she had two black eyes. My brother and I went and talked to the doctors and the other staff and they said that the transplant was hard but she was okay. I felt very relieved. She was in the hospital for almost 3 months this time. She finally got to go home on September 21st.
In pageantry we select a platform, something we talk about, chose to educate people about, a passion, an illness, a need and every mentor tells us in choosing one, select one that is near and dear to your heart. Pick one which drives you from a passion or a place within. When being interviewed for pageants, it is important to be able to be knowledgeable about your platform not only from having read about it but also from having lived it, experienced it and I can definitely say my platform of Donate Life is very near and dear to my heart. I can speak to anyone about the true importance of organ donation and transplantation and move them simply by telling them my story and how I get to have my mom by my side at every pageant, every award ceremony and to kiss me and tuck me in at night because one very special family out there chose to see past their grief in one of the worst moments of their life and chose to save my mom. Many of my classmates this year got Happy National Donor Day cards from me with Donate Life pins attached because while Valentine’s Day is surely popular, I wanted to celebrate every donor and their family out there on that day. I took the opportunity to share my platform with each of my teacher’s and asked them to wear their pins on their badges to show support. I make sure no matter where I go, my Donate Life pin goes with me, it is attached to my sash and it is my belief with educating our young people now, if we can get the message out by the time they have to chose to place the pink dot on their license, they will do so. Together as a family, we want to bring awareness to the great need for organ, eye, tissue and blood donors, we support and go to the Donate Life walks, try to educate as many people as we can about organ donation and how it can empower so many. Now I am a future donor and will definitely be placing that pink dot on my license when I turn 16.