Celebrating the gift of life at the Rose Bowl

Watching football and parades is a tradition for many American families, but one couple from Walkerton won’t be watching from their living room this year, instead, they will be part of the action.

Maria Knowlton and her husband will ride on a float in the famous Rose Parade before attending this year’s Rose Bowl as part of their celebration of the gift of life. The couple celebrated Christmas with their family but will soon travel to Pasadena, California to promote awareness for organ donation as they participate in the Rose Parade.

Twelve years ago Maria received what she calls an “indescribable gift.” That gift was a set of new lungs.

Newscenter 16 first met Maria over a decade ago when she was dying. Cystic Fibrosis had ravaged her lungs with thick mucus, her only chance of survival was a double lung transplant.

“Always before it was just I'm going up the list…Now I'm at the top and I'm waiting. Literally waiting for someone to die and that bothers me a lot,” said Maria of her time leading up to the transplant.

The call came in April, and within two weeks of the transplant the different in Maria was amazing.

“Before I could barely get enough breath to sit up,” said Maria as she took a deep breath with her new lungs, “Still feels silly doing it but it does feel wonderful to feel that.”

For Maria, it is wonderful to see so many dreams come true, especially the opportunity to adopt two children, “I have this whole new life I never imagined. Children and getting to be a mom. And all my friends that didn't receive transplants died.”

That grim reality is a driving force behind the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization (IOPO).

“Nationally there are well over 100 thousand people on the waiting list for a transplant. A new patient is added about every 10 minutes and 18 patients die every day waiting for a transplant,” says Marti Cooper of IOPO.

Maria will join other transplant recipients from across the nation when she rides on the parade float before the Rose Bowl, riding alongside the names and pictures of the donors and their families who gave the gift of life.

A 42-year-old Ohio man donated the lungs that saved Maria. She hopes the story of his donation and her life will help brig hope to families who face a difficult decision.

Now Maria takes about 14 pills a day to keep her body from rejecting her new lungs, she also needs insulin to control the diabetes she developed as a result of the transplant. Still, overall, Maria is doing well with her health and she urges everyone to have a discussion with their family members about organ donation.

Registration to become an organ donor can be done at the BMV or at the Donate Life website.

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