FilAm joins Rose Parade to celebrate second life

By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Jan. 2, 2013

PASADENA, Calif. – From animal rights issues to same sex marriage, tens of thousands gathered at the annual Rose Parade. But for one Filipino-American, this parade was the celebration of a second life.

Arthur Joven Reyes kicked off 2014 in grand fashion, riding the Donate Life float at the 125th Annual Rose Parade.

“Being out here is so surreal and being a part of the parade and being part of all of the events it’s all hitting me now,” Reyes, a heart transplant recipient, said. “It’s fun.”

Just three years ago, Reyes didn’t think he’d even live to see this day.

In 2005, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. After going through five years of treatment, Reyes needed a new heart, surviving from an artificial heart for a month until he found a donor in Justin Oliveria, the victim of a fatal motorcycle crash.

“Hearing the word ‘heart failure’ was a death sentence for me and I was being worked up for a transplant for about five years,” he said. “Finally in 2010, I was able to get my second chance at life. A donor, Justin Olivera, he passed away and his gift gave me a second chance at life. I was able to do so much more.”

He had a chance to meet with his donors’ family last fall. This year they were among those on the Donate Life float.

“It was a very emotional meeting and it was a very crazy experience,” he said. “She had the chance to actually hear his heart in my chest and that moved me beyond words. It was a really precious moment.”

In 2011, over a hundred million Americans were registered as donors and close to 90,000 people were able to receive organ donations that year.

Despite the growing number of lives saved, there continues to be a lack of registered donors from the Asian American community.

“Especially in the Filipino community,” he said. “It’s tough because there’s so many taboos, so many stigmas that kind of play into it and not a lot of people are educated about it.”

As he continues his studying, Reyes is living healthy and running marathons as he finishes up his studies. He also has a cousin currently awaiting a kidney transplant.

You can contact Steve Angeles at steve_angeles@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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