Volunteers are putting the finishing touches on floats for Monday’s Rose Parade in Pasadena. Although all of the floats will be beautiful, few will be as emotionally powerful as the “Donate Life” float, a float dedicated to organ donors and recipients. And, two of the women who volunteered to help build that float now share a bond over loss and victory.
Three years ago, both Rachel Greenberg and Veronica Cosme lost loved ones in an instant. Greenberg’s husband Glenn died suddenly of a brain aneurysm and Cosme’s 18-year-old niece Alyssa was killed when she was hit by a car.
But, out of those tragedies came something unexpected. Greenberg and Cosme now travel the country talking about how their loved ones are still making a difference.
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“His [Glenn’s] cornea for the gift of sight, his heart valve, his tendons, his bones, skin …” Greenberg said.
Because her husband was an organ donor, she says her husband has now changed the lives of 127 people.
“The youngest was a 4-year-old boy in Tennessee who had severe abdominal burns and the oldest was a 94-year-old man in California who Glenn gave the gift of sight,” she said.
The organization known as Donate Life is once again bringing together families of organ donors and recipients to ride in the 2017 Donate Life Rose Parade float. The float is a Polynesian catamaran. The “boat” features 60 floral portraits of donors – including Greenberg’s husband Glenn and Cosme’s niece Alyssa.
Cosme is in the unusual position of being at both ends – she is representing her niece the donor and she is the recipient.
Three years ago, Cosme was weeks away from having to go on dialysis from a failing kidney.
Most people waiting for an organ never get one because there aren’t enough donors. Cosme never imagined such a gift would come from her dying niece.
“My sister grabbed my hand and whispered if Alyssa doesn't make it my family and I want you to have her kidney,” she said.
Cosme declined the offer.
“I just said ‘no she's strong, she's a fighter she's going to make it I have hope and I believe in miracles.’”
Doctors say Alyssa’s kidney turned out to be a rare and perfect match for her aunt.
“I do feel her with me every time I go running, every time I get up in the morning, every time I speak, I feel so connected to her,” Cosme said.
Cosme’s story helped her connect with Greenberg. The two met while creating the floral portraits of their loved ones.
“No matter what it is I do I think about her and I thank her for the gift of life she has given me,” Cosme said of her niece Alyssa.
Nearly 120,000 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant in the United States, according to Donate Life. One organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people.