Sharing Hope

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Ileana Rodriguez, 26, has a personal connection as a volunteer for Texas Organ Sharing Alliance (TOSA), the organization that provides organ donation and recovery services for the Rio Grande Valley. “I thank God every day for organ donation,” she said.
At 13 years old, Ileana was diagnosed with acute renal failure.
“My kidneys died and no one knows why,” she said. Devastated by the news, she went on to receive treatment through dialysis for a year, making it hard for her to live a normal life as a teenager.
“It was one of the hardest times in my life … not knowing when I would be better and not knowing why I got sick was really hard for a 13-year-old,” Rodriguez said. “Being a kid I felt like my life was over and I was very scared. And being on dialysis made me feel like my life was limited to a machine.”
With tears in her eyes, she shares her mother’s inspirational decision of being a living donor to provide a kidney for her.
“I was very blessed by that,” Rodriguez said. “I finished high school, traveled, and experienced things I didn’t think would be possible.” While the kidney was a blessing for the family, it sadly only functioned for seven years. Once she was about to start college, Ileana was in need of another kidney. At a loss, she felt like her life might be coming to an end.
But surprisingly, only after two weeks of being on the waiting list for a kidney, she received her second lifesaving transplant from a registered donor. “Which is a miracle!” Rodriguez said, especially since currently there are over 116,000 people of all ages on the national waiting list for a kidney.
“My donor, she was 19 years old when she gave me the gift of life again,” Rodriguez said. “She gave me the opportunity to be here today and live life to the fullest. Every day I remember that I am here because of the decisions that [organ donors] make to choose to give the gift of life once they are no longer here. She is my hero.”
Every day, 20 people die because there is no donor for them. Some patients, especially some who are waiting for a kidney, could wait for several years, meaning they are on dialysis for that long.
“Our mission is to save lives through organ donation,” said Edwina Garza, communications coordinator for Texas Organ Sharing Alliance. “Everyone has the possibility to be a lifesaving hero through organ, eye, and tissue donation. There’s no age limit or health concerns that [people] have to worry about.” By registering, you can save eight lives as an organ donor and potentially 75 others with tissue donation.
“It’s the best gift to give, the gift of life,” Garza said. “Minorities make up more than half of the national transplant waiting list, but when it comes to giving, unfortunately none of us are signing up. We’re saying no to donation, even though we are the ones in need. We need to be the ones saying yes to donation.”
The United States Department of Labor states that 80 percent of the time, women are making the major medical decisions affecting their family. “We want to empower women to realize the power they have to save lives by registering to be an organ donor,” Garza said. In that vein, TOSA will be unveiling a 2017 campaign called “We Have the Power,” inspired by Rosie the Riveter.
For any information on organ, eye, and tissue donation or to see inspiring organ recipient testimonials, please visit tosa1.org.
To sign up to be an organ donor, please visit donatelifetexas.org, the official registry for organ, eye, and tissue donors.