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Well, I’m officially a “Mrs.” After over a year of planning and a lot of soul searching, we ended up having a magical wedding on June 5, 2010. It was a wonderful day that has left me on cloud 9 for some time. I thank so many people who were able to be there and share in that special day, especially those who travelled or had to face health challenges to be there. I send my sincere apologies to those whom I wasn’t able to invite due to space limitations. Since my social network is so huge, and it was only fair to give Trent ample space for his friends, I had to make some very painful decisions.
My wedding was on a farm called Ardenwood Historic Farm just off the Dumbarton Bridge in Fremont, California. After a very cool May, we were fortunate to have beautiful weather for this completely outdoor wedding. The wedding took place on a lawn in front of a historic mansion in the front of a large gazebo decorated with irises and sunflowers. We had five bridesmaids in short lilac dresses and five handsome penguins (that’s what I call groomsmen). Everything went smoothly and was amazingly stress free. I made an entrance in a horse drawn carriage with my father (it was their idea, not mine since I am NO Cinderella), and then walked down the grass “aisle” in a blur of emotions to meet my soon-to-be husband, Trent. Although this was not a church wedding, there was undoubtedly a spiritual presence -God was there- that was made more heavenly by Andrew’s vocal talents as he sang Leonard Cohen’s song, Hallelujah. The spirit of our grandmothers, my donors and all my friends who had gone before me , were floating in the breeze above the oak tree that surrounded us.
The rest of the night was a blur – I recall a lot of photos, warm feelings to everyone around, a beautiful glowing evening under the star, dancing with Trent and then my father and a few frantic moments trying to swallow dinner and a few bites of cake. It all went by so fast. It was one of those moments when I would have just loved for time to have stood still. Happiness is, after all, “not wanting a moment to end.” And this was one of the happiest moments of my life.
The following morning we had a nice brunch with friends and family staying at the nearby Hotel W (which I highly recommend) and then Trent and I relaxed at the pool for several hours in a very short “honeymoon.” I returned to work on Monday with my mind highly distracted and still in the dream-like state of my wedding. Our house was a mess- with wedding “stuff” everywhere, the fridge empty, and the much appreciated gracious gifts and cards of friends left unopened.
One Friday, Trent and I flew to Los Angeles to attend the Donate Life Hollywood Film Festival. This was the second annual event in which One Legacy, which is LA’s organ procurement organization, collaborates with leaders in the entertainment industry to facilitate accurate portrayals of organ donation and transplantation in Hollywood film and TV shows. The event showcased short films, tv programs and documentaries that covered stories about organ donation. In the crowd at the Friday night Gala were producers, actors, agents, transplant community members, healthcare providers and then little old me, “ wondering what am I doing here?” Since I do not watch TV and am still struggling to watch the same Netflix movie for the last 2 months, I had no idea whom was whom and couldn’t get giddy about any celebs.
The following day was a full schedule of film screenings and workshops on various topics that merged organ donation and media. It was truly inspiring to be in the midst of so many creative minds and passionate hearts who have chosen organ donation/transplantation as their cause. I was particularly inspired by a producer who was creating a film about inmates on death row who wished to donate organs after lethal injection, and the barriers in the legal system that make that difficult. Congratulations to our producer, Marc, who led a panel discussion on using social media (Facebook, twitter, etc) to promote social causes. In that workshop, I was inspired by two individuals using social media to tell stories about foster youth and homelessness. In addition, there were short films on a fire fighter who became an organ donor, an African American woman on dialysis who was an advocate for kidney disease screening in her community, and a story of a slain Palestinian boy who became an organ donor for several Israelis. Each film was moving and captured the power of organ donation to overcome social barriers. One of the main highlighted documentaries was the “D Tour”, a film about a musician who travelled with his rock band on tour while on dialysis.
The highlight of the day was the evening award banquet where television programs such as Grey’s Anatomy, Three Rivers, Army Wives and others were honored for their accurate portrayals of organ donation in their series. Isa and I were fortunate enough to be chosen to present an award to the producers of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, for their three episodes that featured families touched by donation. In one of their episodes, it was tracked that following the show, there was a 6% increase in online registrations for organ donation on the California online donor registry, www.donatelifecalifornia.org. The media is powerful and influencial indeed.
The night was one of elegance, fine foods, bonding through the common thread of organ donation, appreciation for the gift of life and the power of telling stories through TV and movies. It was an honor to be a part of it and we thank One Legacy for including our film crew in this amazing event.
The following day was a much anticipated Los Angeles Power of Two fundraiser in collaboration with One Legacy. Dr. Robert Mendez, who is Chairman of the Board of One Legacy, a kidney transplant doctor and an identical twin himself, was gracious enough to let us use his gorgeous home in Pacific Palisades for the event. With the help of One Legacy and Jennifer Schmidt, our childhood friend-turned- Associate Producer of the Power of Two, the event unfolded into an afternoon of friendship, fine catered food, ocean views, and reunions. We were reunited with our elementary school friend, Tanya, who is a triplet, and met her husband for the first time, Jack Black. Also, several of our nurses from Kaiser Hospital in LA who had taken care of us when we were children also attended. In addition, we met the mother of a childhood friend of mine who came to show her support. While reminiscing she shared so poignantly how she recalled explaining to her young daughter who had befriended us about our illness and potential early death. Never would we have imagined that we would have been reunited – in good health- 30 years later! There were friends from all walks of our life- my parents friends, high school friends and teachers, and members of the larger LA transplant community. It was truly humbling to see so many people supportive of our project and the cause to promote organ donation internationally. I was especially humbled by the generosity of so many during the auction, in which items such as art, wine, and Jack Black’s ukulele and King Kong chess set were offered for enormous prices in support of our film. Many thanks to so many people who supported this event and our film. It was another event that made me high on life – to feel the energy, the love and the anticipation for our film. Like so many, I am excited and truly anticipating what kind of creative and influential film piece Marc will create. The film festival just served to wet my appetite and curiosity.
At 7:15pm we quickly departed from the festivities to catch a plane back to San Francisco. Isa continued from the airport to Sonoma where she is attending a week-long bagpiping camp (and hence not responding to email.)
What a whirlwind weekend! On the plane, we took out the wedding gift that my friend, Sally, made for Trent and me. It was a scrapbook of marriage advice collected from all of our wedding guests on all topics ranging from romance, to money, to life without children. What a warm collection of thoughtful advice, that made us laugh and tear up. This is truly a priceless gift and will be cherished through all the ups and downs of our marriage. Thank you, Sally for compiling this, and for everyone who sent in advice.
Today, the day after this crazy weekend, I reflect on the significance of the date, June 14, 2010. This marks my tenth anniversary of my first transplant. Boy, what a surprise that I am still alive! In quiet reflection, I pray for my donor family who likely marks this day not necessarily as one of celebration, but perhaps as one of sorrow , memory and longing. I reflect on all the miracles of the last 10 years and all the growth and opportunities I have had. Never would I ever have imagined in those early post-transplant days that a decade later I would be involved in an international effort to promote organ donation and be a part of an ambitious film project. Praise God for donor families and excellent medical care, and most of all, immense luck. Thank you to all who have sustained me in the last 10 years and to all who have sent me emails acknowledging this milestone.
After the last few weeks of non-stop activity, it is no surprise that my CMV viral load became positive again. Darn! So back I go to doing anti-CMV infusions every four days. I will back off a bit on my social obligations and focus on recovery from a busy time and healing to put this virus back into dormant mode. Please be patient with me if I implode for a bit- whatever that means in my terms. I do not feel any symptoms and my lung capacity recovered to 92% so it is unusual to have a positive CMV titer. I take it as a sign of my body saying “watch out” so that I must do.
Please join me on this day, June 14, 2010, to honor my donor family and to reflect on the life changing experience that transplant avails. In a decade, I have transformed into a different person full of opportunity and excitement about life. I will celebrate my donor James with every breath always and forever.
Fondly, Mrs. Wallace (AKA Ana Stenzel)