Heart recipient shows gratitude by participating in Rose Parade


POSTED: Sunday, December 27, 2009

A former Hawaii resident who almost died of heart failure plans to celebrate New Year's Day aboard a float at the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., honoring organ and tissue donors who made it possible for others to live.

Glenn Matsuki, a Castle High School graduate now living in Long Beach, Calif., received a new heart 14 years ago. He will be part of the nationally televised parade as one of 24 representatives of donors' families or recipients of donations. They will ride atop a Donate Life float built by Matsuki and others from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. (The parade will be televised live locally from 6 to 8 a.m. on KITV 4/ABC.)

“;It's scary and a very big responsibility, carrying the weight of representing Cedars-Sinai, and transplant recipients, and the 105,000 people on the waiting list,”; he said. “;Transplantation is my passion and my mission. I am here only because another family blessed me by donating the heart of someone they loved.”;

Matsuki is now a hospital services coordinator of OneLegacy and helps grieving families through the process of donating organs of their loved ones upon death.

“;I am able to help more grieving families, resulting in more transplants being performed,”; he said. “;This is the best job ever! I love what I do because indirectly, I am helping families to honor their loved one through giving the gift of life.”;

The Rose Parade float will be embellished with 77 “;floragraphs,”; enlarged photographs of donors decorated by their families, he said. One of the floragraphs will be of Honolulu's Ku'uleialoha Patton, a hula dancer and minister who died in April at 64 and was an organ, eye and tissue donor.

It all started in 1995 when Matsuki, a successful entrepreneur in the Los Angeles corporate flower sales market, caught a flu that progressed to congestive heart failure. He was put on the waiting list for a new heart in the Cedars-Sinai Heart Transplant Program. His whole life revolved around waiting for his pager to ring, he said.

“;It was a terrifying experience that I will never forget. There were reminders throughout my wait that my heart was going to stop at any moment,”; he said.

“;I cannot recall anything about what was told to me about my donor except that the heart came from San Bernardino/ Riverside area and it was a good young heart; the donor saved five lives,”; Matsuki said.

“;After writing to my donor family and did not hear back, there was a void, a strong feeling that I needed to do something, a need to give back, to show my appreciation.”;

He likes to quote the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “;Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.”;

After the operation, he became a “;Heart Families”; volunteer at Cedars-Sinai and in 2000 became a full-time transplant program administrator. In 2006, he started working with OneLegacy, a nonprofit donor network in seven Southern California counties. He is also a member of the Donate Life Rose Bowl Float Committee.