LOMA LINDA, CA – John Orta only wanted to do what he can when he donated his kidney to his identical twin brother, Jake, who suffered from kidney disease since birth.
On New Year’s Day, however, the national TV spotlight will be on the 18-year-old college student from Riverside, Calif., as this year’s sponsored float rider by Loma Linda University Transplantation Institute on the 2012 Donate Life Rose Parade Float.
The 2012 Donate Life Rose Parade Float’s theme is “One More Day,” embodying the nation’s most visible campaign to inspire people to save and heal lives as registered organ, eye, and tissue donors.
Orta will take his spot alongside 27 other inspirational float riders from throughout the country, who range in age from 17 to 67, whose lives were touched either as a donor or recipient of organ, eye or tissue donation.
“I feel privileged to be part of the Rose Parade,” said Orta, a freshman marketing major at California State University San Bernardino, who remembers watching the parade with his family on TV.
“I never thought about becoming a float rider,” he said. “My brother and I are really close and I was fortunate to be in a position to help when he was in trouble. All I wanted was to be there to help.”
On May 10, 2010, Orta became a living kidney donor at 16, which is rare because of his status as a minor. “As a minor, I had to meet with many social workers, psychiatrists, and get cleared by an ethics panel, which granted me a rare policy exception due to the maturity they felt I embodied,” he recalled.
He said deciding to become an organ donor for his brother was easy, drawing inspiration from his brother’s courage in the face of illness; and their father, Paul’s, generosity in donating his kidney for Jake’s first transplant in 2003. Unfortunately, Jake needed another transplant five years later after a virus affected his kidney. Today, Jake does not take medications because the donated kidney from John is a perfect match, and both have never felt better.
“Living donors not only save lives but emphasize the fundamental goodness of human nature,” Loma Linda University Medical Center transplant surgeon Dr. Arvand Elihu said.
Today, more than 110,000 candidates are on the national organ transplant waiting list, but only about 28,000 organs are transplanted each year.
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