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By Michelle Van Valkenburg, Director of Communications
Saturday, Sept. 26 marked the final airing of MedWatch, Community’s weekly TV show on KSEE 24. In that time, we have interviewed hundreds of physicians and nursing staff, patients who’ve overcome life-altering illnesses and injuries, and even local celebrities and community leaders such as Bob Mathias, Gary Scelzi and Devin Nunez.
I considered it a privilege to witness and capture the work of some of the most talented physicians and nurses who perform heart surgery or remove brain tumors or straighten a leg that had been deformed for decades.
But the most extraordinary person I ever interviewed didn’t graduate from medical school. She’s not a nurse, or a local celebrity, or a politician. She is a mom named Yolanda whom I met shortly after launching MedWatch in 2003. My meeting with Yolanda so moved me that I could hardly write about it, yet I’ve thought about her a thousand times since.
Yolanda, through one courageous act, saved multiple lives.
Her middle son Kevin was eight years old and enjoyed being outside and playing with friends after school. Nearly every day he would beg Yolanda to let him go and buy candy at the convenience store just a short walk from his home. Finally, she agreed, but only if he went with some older kids from the neighborhood. That was the last time she saw him alive. A car struck Kevin while in a crosswalk on his way to buy candy.
Later that night Yolanda chose to donate Kevin’s organs.
I, and our videographer James Wallace, was invited to Yolanda’s home a few months later to interview her for a story about organ donation. Since Kevin’s death, Yolanda had become an advocate for the Central California Donor Network. Community Regional Medical Center works closely with this organization and is one of the leading hospitals in the state when it comes to resuscitation and stabilization of organ donors.
What struck me immediately when I walked into Yolanda’s living room, was a tank with the largest goldfish I had ever seen – must have been a foot long. Kevin won it at a school carnival the week he was killed. In the corner of the living room were photos of Kevin, pictures he had drawn and a few of his favorite things. Yolanda found solace in these items and the fact that Kevin’s organs saved four lives.
When I asked Yolanda how she came to the decision to donate Kevin’s organs, she answered by handing me a book that Kevin made in school. It was made of construction paper. Each page had a partially written sentence that was completed by Kevin and enhanced by a Crayola illustration. Yolanda pointed to a page that said, “If I had a rainbow…” and Kevin answered, “… I’d give it away.”
This season Community launches a new, nationally televised TV program called Healthcare Heroes. It will air locally on Sunday evenings at 5 p.m. on ABC 30. I am excited about another great opportunity to shed light on the heroic work our doctors, nurses and clinical staff do every day.
Still, in my view, there are none more heroic than Yolanda who found a rainbow after a terrible rain and gave it away.