“Flying is the only thing that pulled me through.”
For the past 13 years, the anniversary of Koh Murai’s successful kidney transplant surgery has become a family tradition. He gathers with loved ones to celebrate his second chance at life, along with a very special family member – his daughter and kidney donor, Laura Ingram. Thanks to her donation, he underwent a successful transplant surgery in 2009 and has continued his passion for flying hot air balloons.
This year, during the 41st anniversary of The Great Reno Balloon Race, Murai will pilot Firenze, his balloon, sponsored by Donor Network West at the event. Ingram will serve as the launch director for her father’s flights throughout the race weekend; continuing a family tradition for 31 years.
Murai’s health struggles began with rising cholesterol levels and he was eventually diagnosed with kidney failure. Within three years, he also suffered a stroke and a heart attack, and underwent quadruple bypass heart surgery. He had 21% kidney function after his heart surgery.
“Flying is the only thing that pulled me through those three years, plain and simple,” said Murai, who has completed over 300 hot air balloon flights since his transplant.
More than 90,000 people in the U.S. are currently waiting for a kidney donation. For Murai, nine of his friends and loved ones volunteered to be tested to be his living kidney donor; his daughter, Ingram, was a match.
“Going into the surgery 13 years ago, I was more nervous about the transplant working for my dad than I was feeling nervous about myself,” said Ingram. “But as soon as I woke up from the surgery, they told me his transplant was successful – and we’ve had my dad around all this time, which wouldn’t have happened without the kidney donation.”
Murai and Ingram know the importance of organ donation and want to share how important it is to register as a donor. Donor Network West has helped facilitate the recovery of every lifesaving organ in northern Nevada and northern California for nearly 35 years. The non-profit, a federally-designated organ procurement organization, is dedicated to helping provide people with a second chance at life through organ, eye and tissue donation for transplantation and research.
“In supporting recipients like Koh and this event, we aim to raise awareness about the vital importance of organ, eye and tissue donation and to help give the many people waiting a second chance at life,” said Janice Whaley, president and CEO of Donor Network West. “The Great Reno Balloon Race is an iconic northern Nevada event and we hope stories like this will encourage many of its attendees to consider registering to become an organ donor.”
As part of its sponsorship, Donor Network West will be handing out customized trading cards and hosting a booth where attendees can learn more about organ, eye and tissue donation. On Sunday, Sept. 11, Donor Network West is sponsoring Donor Awareness Day at The Great Balloon Race. Attendees are encouraged to stop by and learn how they can give others a second chance at life.
Anyone can register to be an organ donor. To learn more and to register as an organ donor, visit DonorNetworkWest.org.
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