Signing up can save a life: Choose to be an organ donor

August 23, 2013 at 10:09 am

By Dayna Kerecman Myers

Across the United States, there are over 114,000 people waiting for organ transplants, according to Donate Life California. One of Stanford Blood Center’s partners, the California Transplant Donor Network (CTDN), works tirelessly to connect these people with organ and tissue donors who could help them. The CTDN hopes to inspire every resident to choose to become a donor, and reaches out to many groups in our community to help spread the word.

On August 21, Stanford University’s Volunteers in Asia (VIA) program teamed up with CTDN to share this message with medical students from Japan, China and Taiwan. Donate Life Ambassadors including Isabel Stenzel Byrnes (“Isa” – pronounced “ee-sah”), a double lung recipient featured below, shared their stories with the students.

Isabel "Isa" Stenzel Byrnes speaking at the Stanford University Volunteers in Asia panel, August 21, 2013

Isabel “Isa” Stenzel Byrnes speaking at a CTDN/ Stanford University Volunteers in Asia panel, August 21, 2013

Here at Stanford Blood Center, we know just how inspirational the story of Isabel and her identical twin sister Ana is. Isabel shared it for this blog back in August 2011; you can read her moving story, in her own words, here. Their 2007 memoir also inspired a documentary film, “The Power Of Two.”

Soon after their birth, Ana and Isa were diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), and their doctor told their parents they would be lucky to live to reach 10 years of age. In their mid-20s, their health began to decline sharply. Their only hope was to receive double lung transplants. Thankfully, some very special people made the choice to become organ donors, and the twins are alive today.

Isabel recalled five words that changed the lives of her loved ones forever, in 2004: “We have lungs for Isabel.” Isabel wrote, “Somewhere in Central California, a young man had become brain dead after a tragic car accident. He and I were both on ventilators in ICU together, with our families praying for a miracle at our bedsides. Somehow, fate chose him to go and me to stay. I will never understand why. But this young man had told his mother that if anything ever happened to him, he wanted to be an organ donor so he could help people… and his mother obliged.”

Ana and Isabel were both saved by people who made the choice to become an organ donor … and blood donors helped along the way, too. Isabel said that she and Ana together received over 90 units of blood — probably from 90 different donors — and they are living their lives to the fullest to thank the blood donors and organ donors who helped save their lives.

If you wish to be an organ and tissue donor on the Donate Life California Donor Registry, you can sign up either at the DMV or on the Donate Life California website, or call (866) 797-2366. To learn more about the California Transplant Donor Network, visit or call (888) 570-9400. You can also help by signing up for CTDN’s 2013 Donate Life Run/Walk on September 21 at Great America in Santa Clara, California.