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Dawn: Laker for a Day | UCLA Health

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Published on Nov 3, 2017

Dawn wanted nothing more than to soothe the suffering of a stranger. Touched by an article she read about living kidney donations, Dawn decided to take action with a selfless and life-saving act of her own.

On June 24, 2015, Dawn donated a kidney to a stranger experiencing renal failure. Hours after her kidney retrieval surgery at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, that stranger — a father in the Los Angeles area — received a second chance at life.

"I realized I had something I didn't need that someone else desperately needed," Dawn says. "And I knew that if I didn't donate my kidney one day, it would probably nag at me my entire life."

The Lakers invited Dawn and Dr. Jeffrey Veale, who performed the surgery at UCLA, to a game against the Detroit Pistons at Staples Center on January 15. They were also treated to a dinner at the Lexus Club followed by a behind-the-scenes tour of Staples Center before the game.

Dawn had hoped all along that a member of her recipient's family would also donate a kidney (that did not match with their loved one) to another stranger. Sure enough, inspired by her extraordinary act of kindness, the recipient's wife donated the gift of life to a young mother in Oregon the same day as Dawn's procedure.

While many are motivated to donate a kidney to a friend or relative in need, Dawn recognized the struggle for strangers is just as real. She had read that wait times in California for a deceased-donor kidney could be excruciatingly long, and she knew that living-donor kidneys tended to last longer after transplant. With advances in medical technology making one of her kidneys safely available to someone who needed it to survive, Dawn refused to wait any longer.

She had just completed a graduate degree and relocated to Los Angeles for her husband's job. Financial stability, a loving spouse and living a short distance from UCLA's campus and hospitals made Dawn's desire to help someone materialize quickly.

"I saw her just after she woke up and the very first thing Dawn told me was, ‘I'm really glad I did this,'" says her husband, Chris. "And that blew me away."

Dawn feels happy, healthy and grateful each day to be in a position to give, and she encourages others to do what they can to help someone in need.

"Chances are that in your lifetime you will know someone that has been impacted by renal failure, and you yourself might consider giving your kidney," Dawn says. "And if living donation isn't for you, everyone can help solve the organ shortage by registering to become an organ donor, and you can do that today."

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