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East Bay man talks about donating kidney to a stranger across the country

Living donor describes his feeling about giving life to unknown recipient of his kidney
Living donor describes his feeling about giving life to unknown recipient of his kidney 02:22

A longtime advocate for organ donations shared his personal story of helping a stranger earlier this year in an effort to inspire more people to donate life. 

The recipient, a woman who lives on the other side of the country, received a kidney transplant from Luis Mayen, who works as the vice president of external affairs at Donor Network West

He hopes National Living Donor Day on April 3 raised awareness about the impact you can have on someone you know and love or someone you may never meet. 

"I knew I had to do it. I knew I had to become an organ donor. And I could not imagine anything more satisfying than getting to be an organ donor and enjoy it in life," said Mayen. "I knew the need was there. I think we all know the need is there. What really put me over the edge, what made me realize that I needed to do this, was getting more information about how safe it was."

Mayen has worked for Donor Network West for 20 years. More recently, he joined the National Kidney Foundation's board of advisors. His work and advocacy gave him a lot of exposure to the need of organ donations and the difference it makes on families. 

He understood the gift people could give by donating organs after they pass on and as a living donor. In January, he became an indirect donor by giving his kidney to a 42-year-old woman in New York that he did not know then and still has learned little more about since the transplant. 

"I thought about her every day before I went to sleep, and I thought about her every day when I woke up," Mayen said about the recipient of his kidney. "I hope that I have given her time with her family and I hope that I have given her a quality of life back. And I know that she thinks of me probably as much as I think of her."

There is a process to become a donor and part of that is to make sure it will be safe for anyone interested. It starts with a survey. Mayen says he wants more people to consider it, explaining that there is so much to appreciate as a donor who gives while you're alive and the impact it will have on your own life in addition to someone else. 

"I feel so happy every single day. I'm thinking about this woman that I don't even know, knowing that she has a new lease on life and that she gets to enjoy this kidney that I really wasn't even using," he told KPIX. "We all have the power to save someone's life."

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