SAN DIEGO - Organ donors and their recipients came together Saturday to honor multicultural donors and their families and to highlight the critical need for people from diverse backgrounds to donate.
"Being able to skip 12 hours of dialysis each week … spending that time with my family," said Jeff Monis as he fought back tears.
At a ceremony to celebrate life, Monis tried to put into words his gratitude for the man who saved his.
"I don't know if I'm generous, but definitely it is something I felt I wanted to do," said Ivan Sablan.
Sablan, a San Diego police officer, and Monis, a dispatcher, were two complete strangers who are now linked forever after what started with a phone call.
"I said, 'I hear that you're in need of a kidney. I'm willing to donate a kidney,'" said Sablan.
Monis said, "It was shocking to hear that somebody wanted to risk their life to give me a new one."
No matchmaker brought them together, but after enduring dialysis for three times a week, four hours a day – it turns out the men were a perfect match.
"I mean, there's so many connections it's just amazing," said Sablan.
Now, those include a kidney.
At the ceremony Saturday, donors and their recipients shared stories of life and hope and a future they were not sure they would have.
"I celebrate being able to be here for my family and my wife and my daughter and my brother who gave me a gift that I can't repay," said one recipient.
National Minority Donor Awareness Week is from August 1 to 7.
It is often more difficult for minorities to receive a transplant and find a match. There are 123,000 Americans waiting for life-saving organs. More than 20,000 are in California. Of those, 73 percent are minorities.