By ERIC CARPENTER
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
ANAHEIM HILLS – Last December, Judi Sepulveda could barely breathe – doctors believed she would only live another month unless she receive two new lungs.
On Sunday, Sepulveda, 63, and her husband, Dennis, 67, will walk a half-marathon to celebrate new life.
Sunday is Dec. 12. And there's no bigger day on the calendar for the Sepulvedas of Anaheim Hills.
It is, as they call it, their "Rebirth Day."
On Dec. 12, 1996, Dennis Sepulveda received a life-saving transplant after his liver began shutting down because of hepatitis C.
For years, the Sepulvedas threw him parties on Dec. 12, even giving him a red tricycle on his fifth Rebirth Day.
Years later, Judi, who never smoked, developed a lung disease called pulmonary arterial hypertension, which caused blood clots in her lungs. It didn't cause pain but required her to use oxygen tubes and severely stressed her heart.
In summer 2009, she needed a transplant and was put on a waiting list.
On Dec. 11 last year, a woman she'd never met approached her while she and Dennis ate lunch at Wendy's and asked if she could pray for Judi. Then that night, at an annual holiday dinner, Judi said she had "an overwhelming feeling" and told her friends she expected to get a call the next day – Dennis' Rebirth Day – that her wait was over.
At 8:30 the next morning, the phone rang.
"I can't explain it, I could just feel that it was going to happen," she said. "But I about fell on the floor when I actually got the call."
At 11 p.m. that night, she was in surgery, receiving two lungs from a donor – a 49-year-old man. She doesn't know where he lived or how he died.
She's written a letter to the donor's family – forwarded through a third party. She's yet to hear back.
"Because of him, I've been able to experience so much more," she said.
She got to see the birth of her first grandchild, Ruby Ryan McMillan – six months after her surgery.
So this weekend, the Sepulvedas want to say thanks the best way they know how – to raise money and awareness for organ donations. (For information about their fundraising efforts, visit: active.com/donate/DonateLife2011/RunfortheSepulvedas.)
They will go to the Rose Bowl on Saturday to begin decorating the Donate Life Rose Parade float, gluing seeds onto a floral image of an organ donor.
On this year's Rebirth Day, the Sepulvedas, married for 25 years, will walk 13 miles in the L.A. County Half-Marathon.
Their two children and the spouses will run. Judi and Dennis will take it a bit slower.
"I want to do this in honor of my donor," said Judi, who takes a host of medicines daily but no longer requires oxygen tanks. "To prove that I'm doing well and living life."
Dennis, a retired truck driver and now a youth counselor, has become a designated ambassador for Donate Life.
"We are so grateful for a second chance at life – a better life," Dennis said.