She didn't think she'd live long enough to see her son's graduation. Now thanks to an organ donor, Mina Gonzales of Hacienda Heights will see her grandson's graduation.
Gonzales shared the joy of her new life with millions by riding on the Donate Life float in this year's Tournament of Roses Parade.
"I was shocked when they asked me to ride on the Rose Parade float. It's a great honor," the 57-year-old said.
But given Gonzales' many hours of volunteer work on behalf of organ donations, it was a perfect selection.
"Mina has been a great ambassador for Donate Life California, especially with the Latino community. She is very inspiring," said Elena de la Cruz, spokeswoman for OneLegacy, an organ donation
Gonzales got all dolled up to greet the New Year with the hope that more people will consider giving the gift of life through organ donations.
She said her angel - was with her at the parade.
"He was a perfect match. This little angel saved my life," the former medical assistant said.
It's been 12 years since Gonzales got her health back, but she still reveres the memory of the young man who saved her life.
For many years, the local woman felt half dead. She was hospitalized many times for complications after her kidneys failed.
"My kidneys failed in 1992 because of my high blood pressure. I had no idea I was suffering from this silent killer," Gonzales said.
The Azusa native's blood pressure had skyrocketed to 210 over 110, nearly twice the normal reading of 120 over 70.
The Hacienda Heights mother couldn't even leave the hospital, except on occasional weekend visits home.
"My husband (Richard) had to take care of the children and the house by himself. They would visit me in the hospital every weekend," Gonzales remembered.
The Azusa high graduate had almost given up hope. She'd been on the transplant list for seven years and her medical condition was worsening.
"I wasn't alive. I wasn't dead. My husband had to do everything for me and look after our children. I got tired of suffering," Gonzales explained.
Everything changed when she received the new kidneys from Carlos. Gonzales got a second chance at life.
"My angel saved my life. I promised him that as long as I have strength, I would work to get people to donate organs to give others the gift of life," she said.
The Hacienda Heights resident has worked tirelessly to get people to donate their organs upon their death. She visits patients at local dialysis centers, offering words of encouragement and advice.
Gonzales also became very involved with the American Association of Kidney Patients, where she served as vice president.
"I want everyone to sign up for the Donate Life California Organ and Tissue Registry," Gonzales said.
The friendly volunteer hopes the 21,000 Californians waiting for an organ transplant get their own miracles. Even her license plate holder reads "Recycle yourself, be an organ donor."
"One donor can save several lives. I just think there's a lack of education that prevents more people from donating their organs," Gonzales said.
On New Year's Day, Gonzales served as a living example of how organ donations transform lives.
"Thank God for that little boy, we should all follow his example," Gonzales said.
Californians can sign up as organ and tissue donors at the Department of Motor Vehicles. They can also sign up online at www.donateLIFEcalifornia.org or its Spanish-language site at www.doneVIDAcalifornia.org.