Jeff Monis and Ivan Sablan turned out to be the perfect match.
Monis is a San Diego Police dispatcher, Sablan is a San Diego Police officer, and both have an O-Positive blood type.
So when Monis found out he needed a new kidney, Sablan stepped up.
“We worked together, but we didn’t even know each other, and he expressed that he wanted to offer me his kidney,” said Monis.
Once the two found out they were a perfect blood match, they set a surgery date.
“There’s so much we have in common. Jeff’s Filipino; I’m Guamanian, Hawaiian , Japanese and Filipino. It’s amazing,” said Sablan.
As of Saturday, Monis had been living about seven weeks with Sablan’s kidney -- which explains why the two have become as close as family.
“He’s been over to our house many times,” said Monis. “He’s been at parties with my family, and he’ll continue to be a part of my family from now on.”
The unlikely duo came together again Saturday to help encourage others to donate organs.
To kick off Minority Donor Awareness Week, local officials joined the John Brockington Foundation and organ donor-recipient pairs to ring “Transplant Bells” as a celebration of life.
Those ceremonial bells were then given to transplant centers at Rady Children’s Hospital, Scripps Green, Sharp Memorial Hospital and UC San Diego Health System.
Former patients took the podium at the county administration building to complete the sentence: “I celebrate being able to…”
Among the answers: “be here for my family and my brother who gave me a gift I can’t repay” and
“skip 12 hours of dialysis each week and to spend that time with my family.”
Donor pairs like Monis and Sablan shared their stories so others could follow their lead.
“You’re not impacting just one person’s life,” said Sablan. “You’re impacting a family. You now take a person off the recipient list, and everybody moves up the list. It’s all worth it.”
In the U.S., 123,000 people – 69,000 of whom are minorities – are desperately waiting for an organ donor, according to the Gift of Life donor program.
In California, about 81 percent of the 21,000 patients on donor lists are minorities.
Minorities tend to need more organ donations because they have higher rates of hypertension and diabetes. Some ethnicities also face cultural objections to organ donations, officials with the Brockington Foundation say.