Since she was a child, Amy Nash has loved to watch the Rose Parade on television on New Year’s Day.
But this year, the 50-year-old Clarence woman will get to appear in the parade – riding on the “Donate Life” float as one of 32 people from across the nation who are either recipients, living donors, members of donor families or advocates.
After helping decorate the float, she will ride on it, carrying photos of two very special people who donated kidneys to save her life.
One photo will be of her first kidney donor, Joseph Albers of Bath, who was two weeks shy of his 21st birthday when he died in a car accident. That was 26 years ago.
The second photo will be of her childhood friend Maureen Wirth, who donated one of her kidneys to Nash just four years ago after the earlier transplant started to fail.
Nash had been hunting for the perfect match since her renal function again dipped below 20 percent.
“You never ask to go on this medical journey. It just sort of kicks you in the teeth, and you go on this journey with your family, friends and your medical staff,” Nash said. “My goal on this kidney is 42 years. But this kidney may not last me until I’m 100 years old. And that’s my reality.”
Nash has a clear perspective on how fragile life can be, as the recipient of two kidneys more than two decades apart.
“When I got my first transplant, I had to accept and deal with the fact that somebody’s death led to me living,” Nash recalled. “I wanted to make sure something good happened from something horrible. It could only be good after a terrible car accident.”
Then came the need for her second transplant and a living donor, a friend from her days in high school in Alden.
“The difference with a living kidney donor was that Maureen and I walked into the hospital with our families,” Nash said. “She was happy and healthy and put herself in harm’s way for me. She is now living with one kidney, as am I.”
Nash is extremely grateful to Wirth for giving her another chance at life in the face of an overwhelming disease.
“We’ve always stayed in contact with each other. The incredible thing about Maureen is that 11 months after she gave me one of her kidneys, she ran the New York City Marathon on one kidney. Since then, she’s run six other marathons,” Nash said of her friend.
The Tournament of Roses parade is a dream come true for Nash, who flew Christmas Day to Pasadena, Calif., with her husband, Jerry, and her 16-year-old son, Nicholas Colombo. They are vacationing for a few days in Southern California before parade festivities begin.
The theme of the float is “Journeys of the Heart,” and it will be showcased in the parade, whose theme this year is “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” based on a beloved Dr. Seuss book.
“It is the thrill of a lifetime. I’m one of those kids who has always loved the parade,” Nash said. “Once we got a digital video recorder, I [record] it. I am fascinated by the floats, the fresh flowers. The entire history of the parade has always fascinated me. This is just the most incredible dream come true.”
Upstate New York Transplant Services is pleased that Nash will represent the organization in the parade.
“She’s just an amazing ambassador for the mission of organ donation,” said Mark Simon, president and chief executive officer of Upstate New York Transplant Services. “Her story is a special one. We’re thrilled she’ll be able to be with other donors. We’re glad she’ll be able to represent Western New York.”
Nash is adamant that people educate themselves about organ donation.
“I want families to have the conversation about organ donation and know that they can choose to sign the New York State donor registry,” she said. “Let their families know what their wishes are, God forbid, if they are faced with a horrible accident and have to make these decisions.”