SJ teen makes plea for grandfather's life, participates in organ donation campaign

Dalila Valenzuela, 17, has seen her grandfather’s health decline throughout most of her high school career. At 66 years old, Leonardo Valenzuela was diagnosed with kidney failure. He rolled up his left shirt sleeve to reveal several bumps. 

"I got in my AV for three years. You can touch it,” he said. "These are the results from being on dialysis."

Leonardo is on a strict diet, but he’ll soon need more medical intervention. 

“He's currently on the waiting list at Stanford Health for a kidney transplant,” said Dalila.“We're still on the waiting list and we haven't heard back." 

On Saturday morning, Dalila and Leonardo, along with a very large attendance, participated in the Cup of Life’s organ donation campaign in San Jose. 

More than 113,000 people in the United States are waiting for an organ transplant. In San Jose, there was a specific reason why the campaign was held at the Vietnamese American Community Center. 

"In Santa Clara County alone, there are over 1,600 people waiting within the Vietnamese community for a transplant,” said Donor Network West CEO, Janice Whaley. “So it's important for people to know it's not just people in other places, it actually affects this county and people they know in their community."

Waiting for an organ match is often an agonizing process for those in desperate need for a transplant and their family members. 

"There was a lot of distress with my grandma, because no matter what she did, she wouldn't be a match for my grandpa,” said Dalila. “Definitely an emotional experience."

Donor Network West is promoting donor registration in multiple communities for April’s National Donate Life Month. It encourages people to sign up to be organ donors in the event of their death. 

"It's important that people make these decisions, because it's really hard when you're in that moment and you've lost your loved one and you don't know what they really wanted,” said Whaley. “This is an opportunity for my family to know that I already made that decision."

Dalila started a “Pink Dot Club” at Andrew Hill High School, which aims to educate students on organ donation. So far, she says 30 of her fellow upperclassmen have signed up to be organ donors. 

Another simple way to sign up for the donor registry is by going to the DMV and having the pink dot “donor” mark put on your drivers’ license.