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Burbank Transplant Recipient Monica O'Brien to Ride on "Donate Life" Float in 2011 Rose Parade

Los Angeles - Dec. 6, 2010 – Burbank resident and liver transplant recipient Monica O’Brien has been chosen to ride the Donate Life float in the 2011Rose Parade in Pasadena on New Year’s Day. The 33-year-old, who underwent life-saving surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, will be one of 30 transplant candidates, recipients and donors greeting a million spectators, 52 million U.S. TV viewers and audiences worldwide.

“When you’re a liver transplant recipient, every day is a parade, but getting to ride on a float in the Rose Parade is an incredible honor,” says O’Brien, a lifelong Burbank resident who now works for the city.  “Life just can’t get any better than this!”  

O’Brien, whose ride is sponsored by Cedars-Sinai Comprehensive Transplant Center, will be joined on the float by 29 other participants from other sponsoring organizations nationwide.  Each has received, donated or awaits lifesaving transplants of kidneys, tissue, hearts, lungs, livers, corneas, bone, ligaments and bone marrow. The 35-foot-tall float, with the theme “Seize the Day!” features multiple colorful kites floating above. The tails of the kites are adorned with 54 memorial “floragraph” portraits of deceased donors as a tribute to their gift of life.  The flying kites aim to symbolize how transplant recipients have received a new chance to enjoy precious moments in life with friends and family.  

That’s a lesson O’Brien says she has learned since she found out at age 19 that she was born with hepatitis C, which often causes chronic liver disease and liver failure. That diagnosis didn’t slow her down at first.  She married and had a son, Charlie, now 12, and began attending college part time.  But there also were hurdles to overcome, including the wait for a liver, surgical complications, a divorce, a new marriage and learning she could not have more children. That was the only news that was tough to accept, O’Brien said.  

As it turned out, she didn’t have to accept it at all: “I went in for a check-up because my (blood test) numbers were up and they didn’t know why,” O’Brien said, “and that’s when they figured out my numbers were up because I was pregnant.” Meaghan Jeannette O’Brien was born July 24 and is chubby and healthy, O’Brien said.  “Thanks to transplantation, my entire life is a miracle,” she said.  “That’s what I will be thinking every second I’m on that float.”   

The parade float is coordinated by OneLegacy, a nonprofit, federally designated organ and tissue recovery organization serving the seven-county greater Los Angeles area.  The float is supported by more than 60 official partners from across the nation, including organ and tissue recovery organizations, transplant centers, nonprofit and for-profit contributors, and transplant recipient organizations.

More than 109,000 Americans await life-saving organ transplants, reports OneLegacy, and 18 people die each day due to the shortage of donated organs. Hundreds of thousands of people each year need donated eyes and tissue to prevent or cure blindness, heal burns or save limbs, and one out of three people will need donated blood in their lifetime.