Artesia Transplant Patient to Ride in Rose Parade®


Artesia Kidney Transplant Patient to Ride in Rose Parade®


UNM Hospital transplant patient America Leyva of Artesia was recently selected to participate in the Rose Parade® one of the most celebrated entertainment events in the world.  On January 2, 2006 Leyva, who had a kidney transplant in 2003 at the age of thirteen and was one of five winners of the Ride of a Lifetime essay contest, sponsored by Astellas Pharma US, Inc. , will ride in the parade in Pasadena, California.

She will ride on the 2006 Donate Life Rose Parade® Float, themed "Life Transformed," in celebration of those unique individuals whose lives have been touched by transplantation.  Additionally, Leyva and her guest will travel to California to meet other transplant recipients and donor families from around the country, work with the team to help build the Donate Life Rose Parade® Float and attend special receptions.

"America has always had a positive outlook on life despite the hardship of kidney failure," said Craig Wong, M.D., MPH, assistant professor, Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Nephrology, University of New Mexico School of Medicine.  "She is poised, intelligent, and kind even under very stressful life circumstances.  The doctors here are very proud of her award and her other accomplishments."

Launched in April 2005, the Ride of a Lifetime contest asked transplant recipients to submit a short essay summarizing how their transplant experience transformed their life.  The contest entries were distributed at transplant centers across the country, and were also made available online at  An independent third-party panel of judges, along with one Astellas representative, selected the five essay winners who best represented the "Life Transformed" theme.

"Every transplant recipient has a unique story about their journey one that often ends in a life-altering transformation," said Maribeth Landwehr, Assistant Director of Corporate Communications for Astellas.  "As a partner of the Donate Life Rose Parade® Float, Astellas created the contest as a tribute to the science of transplantation and the recipients who have experienced the ultimate transformation of life."

The Donate Life Rose Parade® Float will feature 23 riders whose lives have been transformed by organ and tissue donation and transplantation.  The float is coordinated by OneLegacy in partnership with Astellas and 50 other organizations nationwide.  OneLegacy is the nonprofit, federally designated transplant donor network serving the Greater Los Angeles area.

America Leyva's Story

When America Leyva was 10-years-old she was told that she had gone into renal failure and had to begin dialysis immediately.  "My heart was pounding, my 10-year-old mind was racing, and I felt my knees give out…" she wrote in her essay.  After almost two years of dialysis, Leyva was given the gift of a life a new kidney.  Leyva now has a very special relationship with her donor family.  Leyva feels that she and her twelve-year-old donor Blane, who died in a skiing accident, are soul mates.  "We were both a part of the enrichment program at our schools, we were both positive outgoing individuals, and we made friends very easily…Blane is my angel," Leyva wrote in her essay. 

Now 15 years old, Leyva has a wonderful outlook on her transplantation experience and life, " I realize that my kidney transplant changed my whole life for the best," she wrote in her essay.   "I had the opportunity to meet new people, I opened my eyes to the important things in life, and I gained confidence in myself and faith in God."

For more information regarding the Ride of a Lifetime essay contest or to read Leyva's essay, along with the other winning essays, visit

About Astellas

Astellas Pharma US, Inc., a US subsidiary of Tokyo-based Astellas Pharma Inc., is a research-based pharmaceutical company dedicated to improving the health of people around the world through the provision of innovative and reliable pharmaceutical products.

Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322

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