Woman to meet 18 strangers who saved her life by donating blood, platelets

Media Contact

Elaine Schmidt
(310) 794-2272
WHAT:
Due to confidentiality laws, most blood donors never know who receives their blood. Similarly, patients never learn the identities of the people who donated their time and blood to save their lives. But a rare reunion organized by the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center will change that. A UCLA liver transplant patient will meet 18 blood and platelet donors who sustained her life with their generous donations.
 
WHO:
 
Rosario Saavedra 
Rosario, 66, suffered liver failure and massive blood loss in early 2010, requiring transfusions of 95 units of plasma, 59 units of whole blood and 15 units of platelets to stay alive. After waiting several months, the mother of eight underwent a liver transplant at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center last April. Her sons sold their comfortable home at a loss to pay for her post-surgical expenses and the more than 30 anti-rejection drugs she must take daily. Born in Peru, Rosario speaks only Spanish and will rely on her son Mario to interpret her grateful words to her donors. Her family will join her at the event.
 
Mario Saavedra
Mario, 33, gave up everything to save his mother's life. When the hospital required a full-time caregiver for Rosario to qualify for a liver transplant, he moved into his parents' tiny Newbury Park home. He sold his television, cell phone and PlayStation for gas money to drive Rosario the 40 miles to her medical appointments. After Rosario's surgery, Mario left school and quit his job to stay by her hospital bedside during the recovery. Now he sleeps on the couch of his parents' two-bedroom apartment, which they share with three other children. Rosario and Mario attend a UCLA support group for liver patients and their caregivers, and they hope to educate the Hispanic community about the importance of blood and organ donations.
 
Donors
Los Angeles Unified School District employee Benny Ng and UCLA student Minerva Esquivel are among the 18 donors looking forward to giving Rosario a warm hug. The group spans the spectrum in terms of ethnicity, religion, gender, age and occupation. Many have donated platelets and blood hundreds of times, starting in high school, and have given twice a month for more than 15 years.
 
The UCLA Blood and Platelet Center also will pay special tribute to the student donors of Francis Polytechnic Senior High School in Sun Valley. The school's predominantly Latino student body has collected more than 4,000 units of blood in seven years for UCLA patients. Principal Gerardo Loera and staff members Kitt Heilbron and Elidia Vazquez will attend. 
 
Hong, the UCLA surgeon who performed Rosario's liver transplant, will explain why patients with chronic liver disease require so many transfusions of blood and platelets. 
 
Ziman, medical director of the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center, will salute the year's top blood and platelet donors and describe how many people's lives they saved. 
 
 
WHEN:
Friday, Jan. 28, noon–2 p.m.
 
WHERE:
UCLA Faculty Center (California Room), 480 Charles E. Young Drive East (map)
 
BACKGROUND:
Rosario and her family hope to educate the public about liver disease, transplants and the need for blood and platelet donations among Hispanics. Some statistics:
  • Nearly 41 percent of the 666 people waiting for liver transplants at UCLA are Hispanic.
  • In the past 15 years, 3,800 Hispanics nationwide died while waiting for a new liver.
  • Hispanics are more prone to diabetes, hypertension, obesity and types of hepatitis, which can lead to chronic liver disease and the need for a new organ.
  • Much of the general population, including 53 percent of Hispanics, share type O blood, creating a longer wait and more competition for the same liver.
INFORMATION:
To donate blood or platelets, a person must be 17 or older, weigh at least 110 pounds, be in good health, not take aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs within 48 hours of donation, and be willing to allow one hour for donating blood or two hours for donating platelets. To schedule a donation, contact [email protected] or 310-825-0888, ext. 2.
 
MEDIA CONTACT:
Elaine Schmidt, [email protected], 310-794-2272
 
PARKING:
For media: To reserve complimentary parking in UCLA's Lot 2, at Westholme Avenue and Young Drive, call the media contact by 10 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 28. Parking for oversized vans must be arranged in advance.
Media Contact:
Elaine Schmidt
(310) 794-2272
[email protected]