DMV honored by Truckee Town Council | SierraSun.com

DMV honored by Truckee Town Council

An average of 22 lives are lost each day due to the shortage of organ donors, according to information from Donate Life America.

But in Truckee the local Department of Motor Vehicles office has been doing everything possible to help bring those numbers down by ensuring area residents are registered organ donors.

The Truckee Town Council honored the DMV's efforts Tuesday, presenting the department with a plaque and proclaiming April 2018 as National Donate Life Month in Truckee.

Mary Thompson, of the Truckee DMV, was on hand to accept the honor on behalf of the department.

"Sometimes I think it should be backward, the DMV should be giving this to the town of Truckee, because we have such a supportive and wonderful community here," said Thompson. "Truckee has one of the highest giving rates in the state, and I think it speaks well about the caliber of this community and I'm happy to be part of it."

One person can save eight lives, according donatelifecalifornia.org, and enhance the lives of 75 others through organ, eye, and tissue donation. There are more than 12,000 members of the Truckee community that are organ donors, according to the council's presentation, joining nearly 14 million Californians on the registry.

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Two women from Sierra Nevada Donor Awareness offered accounts on the importance of organ donation.

'Wouldn't be alive today'

"It seems sometimes that it's just words, but it means so much more. Twenty years ago I received the gift of life in the form of a liver," said the organization's president, Tracy Copeland. "I was in a hospital in Stanford fighting for my life. They had told my family they didn't expect me to make it through the night.

"If it wasn't for the decision of another family that was faced with unimaginable tragedy as their son, at 19 years old, was in a horrific motorcycle accident, and if it wasn't for the decision that his family could make in the middle of their own grief to give life — myself, a lung transplant, a heart transplant, and two kidney recipient transplants wouldn't be alive today."

Truckee local Sonya Retzlaff-Huggins shared her own story in donating a kidney to Sharon Filardo of Tahoe Vista.

"I prayed for someone else to help her," said Retzlaff-Huggins. "God must have been smiling, 'You don't know this yet, but it will be you.'"

Retzlaff-Huggins said she first heard about Filardo's condition after seeing a poster asking for help in finding a kidney donor at the Truckee Copy Center.

Filardo suffered from a rare disease that attacks the kidney's filter units. There was no cure, her friends that had the same blood type weren't matches, and she was about to go on dialysis.

The turning point for Retzlaff-Huggins came on a flight to watch her son play football. She happened to be seated next to a surgeon, who specializes in kidney donations.

"At that moment I thought, 'Wow, I'm sitting on this plane, at this seat next to a kidney donor surgeon,'" she said. "And then I told him about the poster and what I had read, and he said, 'Stick with Sharon. Take all of those tests and make sure you don't have a scratch when you get to surgery' … it was truly a miracle. I just did it, the seed had been planted."

Today, Retzlaff-Huggins said she has no physical limitations after donating a kidney and just has to make sure she has plenty of electrolytes when doing strenuous activities. She also works at Squaw Valley as a ski instructor.

The Truckee DMV will celebrate Donate Life Blue & Green Day on Friday, April 13.

For more information on being an organ donor visit DMV.CA.gov or SierraNevadaAwareness.com.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Truckee Sun. Contact him at jscacco@truckeesun.com.