Pam Endo was 8 years old when a doctor attributed her poor health to “a psychological problem.”
Before long, however, her uncle — who worked as a nurse at Glendale Adventist Medical Center — would help her attain the correct diagnosis: juvenile diabetes.
That was in the late 1950s. When her kidneys failed in 2003 after years of suffering from the disease, Endo could only hope for a kidney transplant to save her life.
She got the transplant, and on Thursday, the Agoura Hills resident told her story to staff at Glendale Adventist as 20 hospitals in the region launched a campaign to raise awareness for organ donation.
California is home to 9 million registered organ donors, according to Eric Carr, a representative with OneLegacy, a Los Angeles organ donation organization.
Across the nation, there are 100 million registered donors. Even so, donors often wait years before a match that will extend their lives can be found.
One new push, Carr said, is for hospitals to provide registration links on their websites.
Endo spent a year and eight months on dialysis as she waited on a transplant list.
“The only thing that kept me going was the thought that I'd get a transplant,” she said.
Endo ultimately was granted a new kidney and pancreas in 2005 by a 39-year-old female organ donor.
“I could only thank her and her family. Otherwise, I would not be standing here today,” Endo said.
Today she no longer suffers from diabetes.
She was congratulated by Glendale Adventist staff when she shared that she has traveled widely, has seen both of her children graduate from college and is preparing to welcome her first grandchild in June.
Endo and her husband, Bruce, also have been on the other end of organ donation.
When their fourth-month-old son Andrew passed away in 1981 from sudden infant death syndrome, they donated his organ and brain tissue.
“We knew the pain we were experiencing and we hoped other people could avoid that,” Bruce Endo recalled.
“We have taken great comfort that we said yes in one of the most difficult moments of our lives.”