Donate organs, donate life

On April 15, 2011, my grandson Malaikye Payne died after being brutally attacked and suffering 21 blows to the head. In the darkness of his grief, my son Daniel, Malaikye’s father, chose to donate Malaikye’s organs so others could have a chance at life. Although Malaikye was only 16 months old when he died, he went on to save the lives of four people, ranging from 9 months to 65 years old.

Rodriguez with Malaikye.

After Malaikye’s death, I became determined to help others understand the impact they can have on patients in need of life-saving organs. I live in Alhambra and became a city ambassador with Donate Life, a nonprofit alliance of organizations that work to increase organ, eye, and tissue donation. I engage community members in Alhambra and show residents the importance of donating organs: Anyone can help save a life like Malaikye did.

We are facing a dire organ donor shortage. There are currently more than 21,000 people waiting for organs in California, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). But as of April 4, only 124 patients have donated organs in 2014. And the need for transplants is disproportionately high among minority populations — Hispanics, Asians, and African Americans — who have higher incidents of high blood pressure, diabetes, and kidney failure, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Signing up for an organ donation registry can help curb this shortage and save lives. My family is fortunate to have relationships with two of Malaikye’s organ recipients. Brooke, 2, received his heart and is enjoying a healthy life. She is usually dancing, playing, or giggling. Lorena, 21, received one of Malaikye’s kidneys. She is traveling and going to school without health complications.

Lorena (left) and Rodriguez are both ambassadors with Donate Life in Malaikye's honor.

It has been a long fight for justice for Malaikye. Mailakye’s murderer was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years to life in prison, and this painful chapter for my family has come to a close. Our faith and my son’s decision to share Mailakye’s life with others saw us through this journey. I feel peace knowing that he not only gave his organ recipients life, but also saved their families from the grief of watching their loved ones pass.

Malaikye is our little hero. I wanted to honor him and show him that I am living and celebrating his life. Through this painful journey, I have embraced the platform that Donate Life provides me and shared his story of hope. I recently spoke to a group of nursing students at Mt. San Antonio College, created an online campaign to promote organ donation, and represented Donate Life at Alhambra events. Every time I help someone understand the importance of donating their organs, Malaikye’s legacy lives on.

Please consider being an organ donor today and you too can become a hero for someone in desperate need. Donate Life is an organ and tissue donor registry. Those wishing to make the commitment to donate may register online at DonateLifeCalifornia.org or its Spanish-language counterpart, DoneVidaCalifornia.org.

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