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Organ Donors Can Change the World

December 22, 2005|By Reg Green

Lidio Gonzalez loved life. His wife, Edith, remembers how he would bring home injured ducks and pigeons from the park near their home in Los Angeles and nurse them back to health. But four years ago, without warning, at the age of 34, Lidio died when blood vessels in his brain ruptured.

Through her grief, Edith, only 33 at the time, saw that even in death his giving nature could be a legacy to help others. Supported by a message she had read from Pope John Paul II that the Catholic Church considers organ donation the ultimate act of love, she donated his lungs, liver and kidneys -- and has always been glad of it.

Supported by her daughter, Meredith, now 9, she has become a vigorous advocate for donation as a volunteer with OneLegacy, the federally-designated non-profit organization that oversees organ and tissue donation in most of Southern California. "Being an ambassador for this cause has helped me view painful memories in a different light," she says. "I no longer feel sorry for myself."

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On Jan. 2, Edith, along with 22 others whose lives have been transformed by organ and tissue donation, will ride a float in the 117th annual Rose Parade in Pasadena to remind the millions of people who are watching either on the parade route or on television that they too have an opportunity to change the world. Appropriately, the theme of this year's parade is "It's Magical."

I remember the moment when I first saw clearly the impact that opportunities like that can have. It was 11 years ago, four months after our 7-year-old son, Nicholas, had been shot in the head in a botched robbery while we were on a family vacation in Italy.

We donated his organs and corneas and had gone back to Italy to meet his seven recipients. The occasion was carefully staged so that we would see them and their families all at once. The door opened and in came this mass of humanity -- some smiling, some tearful, some ebullient, some shy. The sheer numbers were overwhelming.

"Did one little body do all this?" I asked myself. And yes it did. It restored the sight of two parents of young children and saved five terminally-ill people, four of them teenagers, when no other cure was possible. Eleven years later all seven are living productive lives.

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