SAN RAMON -- A donation of lifesaving blood is the best way to pay it forward, says Dianna Murphy, of San Ramon.
It's a way to honor a family she doesn't even know for the lifesaving gift her son received six years ago. Dianna doesn't take for granted the gentle "thump thump" sounds of her son's heart and often asks him if she can listen to it.
Kevin Murphy was 11 when he received a heart transplant after suffering from persistent flu-like symptoms and abdominal pain. Thinking he was destined for a liver transplant due to his failing enlarged liver, he was sent to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, where his family was told he would instead need a new heart.
He was placed on a heart transplant waiting list and 13 days later, on Feb. 20, 2008, Kevin received his new heart and his new life. Today a 17-year-old junior at California High School, Kevin is looking forward to the first varsity track meet of the season later this month, when he will run the 100-yard dash.
Already a registered organ donor, Dianna said she wanted to make an impact that first anniversary of Kevin's transplant surgery and planned a blood drive to honor the family of the heart donor. What they thought was a one-time event has turned into a successful annual event that brings dozens of people together. This year the Stanford Blood Center and the Murphy family are hosting the fifth annual Pay It Forward Blood Drive on Saturday from noon to five p.m. at 209 Hat Creek Court in San Ramon, where two Stanford Blood Center Bloodmobiles will be parked.
"Someone gave us our family back and we felt compelled to give back," said Dianna. A blood donation is the best way to help so many people from cancer patients to transplant patients.
"Everyone knows somebody who has benefitted from blood transfusions and donations," she adds.
The goal is to get 100 units of blood donated, says Dianna who has worked feverishly to get the word out to the schools, friends and neighbors. The first year, 61 units were donated.
The entire family, including dad Tim and brothers Steven, 23; Brian, 20 and Brandon, 11 are planning a fun-filled afternoon with a barbecue, carnival games, live music, popcorn and a performance by the Cal High dance team. Everyone will receive a raffle ticket for a variety of prizes throughout the afternoon.
"This is our way to say thank you," she says.
The family is hopeful to one day meet the donor's family, who Dianna says they have tried to contact through the donor network.
"Every time we attempted to write a letter to them (the family) it fell short of the emotions behind it," said Dianna. "I have dreamed of the day" when we meet, she added. "I feel the need to hug them and make eye contact. I want to tell them they've given me back my family. It's more of an emotion than words can describe."
"Thank you is not enough," to say to the donor's family, said Kevin. "Words are not enough."
His voice catches as he recalls coming out of the drug-induced coma only to find out he had a new heart and knowing "someone had died for me."
Kevin returns to the Stanford hospital about four times a year for checkups, but there's no stopping the energized teenager who runs varsity track, participates in his church youth group, helps the junior high youth group and is planning a trip to Mexico during spring break to help build houses. With SATs and college applications on the horizon, Kevin says he is a "normal kid" with a unique experience that has made him a more caring and understanding person.
"I wanted to put him in a bubble," said Dianna. But, she added, the doctor told me "He (Kevin) got a second heart for a second chance at life. Let him go and do the things boys do."
What Kevin does is encourage others.
"Donate blood, save a life. Every unit makes a difference," he said.
Visit www.bloodcenter.stanford.edu for blood donor requirements and details. To make an appointment, browse to http://bloodcenter.stanford.edu. Click on "Schedule an Appointment" and search by Zip code: 94582.
Preregistered donors are preferred, but drop-ins will also be accepted.
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: 209 Hat Creek Court in San Ramon
To register: Visit www.bloodcenter.stanford.edu for blood donor requirements and details. To make an appointment, browse to http://bloodcenter.stanford.edu. Click on "Schedule an Appointment" and search by Zip code: 94582.