Comprehensive Cancer Centers’ Second Decade of Free Sunscreen & Proactive Skin Safety Measures

By | Featured, News

To kick off its 11th year of skin safety community partnerships, Comprehensive Cancer Centers (Comprehensive) has added Downtown Container Park, Friends of Red Rock Canyon, Tivoli Village and The District at Green Valley Ranch to its roster of local entities offering free SPF 30 sunscreen and proactive skin safety tips to its customers, visitors and employees.

To-date and across the valley, Comprehensive has provided tens of thousands of sunscreen packets to partners as well as more than 100 free sunscreen kiosks conveniently positioned throughout the valley.

“Our skin safety partnerships are all about convenience, awareness and preserving the vitality our community,” said Comprehensive’s executive director, Paul Dieter. “As we enter a second decade of these partnerships, we’re keeping the momentum going with the addition of locales where Southern Nevadans like to have fun in the sun. Wherever we can be, we want to help those in our community stay skin smart and stay one step ahead from ever having to visit one of our clinics with a skin-related cancer condition.”

For the new skin safety partnerships in 2024, free sunscreen will be available in kiosks at outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment hot spots Downtown Container Park, Tivoli Village and The District at Green Valley in popular areas at each property and at some individual hosted events. Friends of Red Rock Canyon will utilize the free sunscreen partnership to highlight skin safety awareness as they promote the Red Rock National Conservation Area to the public.

Long-time skin safety and sunscreen partners are joining Comprehensive in this mission again this year, including: City of Las Vegas, City of North Las Vegas, Clark County Parks & Recreation, City of Henderson, RTC Southern Nevada, Las Vegas Aviators, UNLV Athletics, Las Vegas Lights FC, Vegas Golden Knights and Vegas Silver Knights, The PENTA Building Group, Cadence master-planned community and Downtown Summerlin. Comprehensive is also the official sun safety partner for the Southern Nevada affiliate of American Cancer Society.

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 840 Nevadans will be diagnosed with melanoma of the skin in 2024 and one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70. Amid rising rates of skin cancer and melanoma occurrences nationwide, awareness remains a powerful tool in mitigating the chance of a prospective skin-related diagnosis.

About Comprehensive Cancer Centers
Comprehensive Cancer Centers is an award-winning multi-specialty practice comprising medical oncology, hematology, radiation oncology, breast surgery, pulmonary services, cancer genetic counseling clinical research and other infusion services, with treatment centers and offices throughout Southern Nevada. For more than 40 years, the practice has provided oncology services to patients in and out of state with a specialized physician and nursing staff. Comprehensive, an affiliate of The US Oncology Network, offers state-of-the-art technologies, latest advancements in cancer treatment and groundbreaking clinical research trials. The practice participates in more than 150 Phase I, Phase II and Phase III clinical research studies each year and has played a role in developing more than 100 FDA-approved cancer therapies. For more information, visit the company’s website at, and follow the practice on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Southern Nevada Health District Detects Xylazine in Clark County Illicit Drug Supply

By | News

The Southern Nevada Health District has detected xylazine in the local illicit drug supply through its community surveillance program where drug paraphernalia is anonymously collected and sampled in Clark County. While xylazine use has not been widely reported in Nevada, the Health District registered three overdose deaths involving xylazine in 2023 (compared to one death in 2020).

The surveillance program is part of an expanded effort to detect substances more quickly and respond. The program that detected xylazine has collected 502 samples since December 2022. In the reports received by the Health District, methamphetamine was detected in 53.7% of samples and heroin in 38.9%. Samples were taken from various paraphernalia to ensure a broad representation of the way substances are used in the community.

Xylazine, also known as “tranq,” is a potent tranquilizer that is increasingly being found in the national illicit drug supply and has been linked to overdose deaths throughout the United States. In Clark County, the age-adjusted overdose death rate involving any drug per 100,000 residents rose by 46.3% from 2018 to 2023, with overdose deaths involving fentanyl increasing by 561%, and overdose deaths involving methamphetamine increasing by 57.4% during the same period.

Xylazine is only approved for veterinary use and is not approved for human consumption. It can be life-threatening and is especially dangerous when combined with opioids, such as fentanyl. The use of xylazine can cause drowsiness, amnesia, blood sugar abnormalities, slowed breathing, slowed heartbeat, dangerously low blood pressure, wounds that can become infected, and death.

Harm reduction practices can help prevent further overdose deaths and the incidence of xylazine-related wounds and infections. The Health District provides test strips for both fentanyl and xylazine without a prescription at 280 S. Decatur Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89107. Additional distribution locations for fentanyl test strips can be found at

Xylazine is not an opioid, and naloxone (Narcan) will not reverse the effects of xylazine. Because xylazine is often found in substance mixtures containing fentanyl, it is important to take extra caution. Narcan should be given in response to any suspected overdose as a means of reversing any possible opioid effects. In addition, 911 should be called for further medical evaluation. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides information on responding to an opioid overdose at How to Respond to an Opioid Overdose |

To learn more about xylazine go to People who are using substances, or their loved ones, can get more information about support and resources at

The Southern Nevada Health District serves as the local public health authority for Clark County, Boulder City, Henderson, Las Vegas, Mesquite and North Las Vegas. The agency safeguards the public health of the community’s residents and visitors through innovative programs, regulations, and initiatives focused on protecting and promoting their health and well-being. More information about the Health District, its programs, services, and the regulatory oversight it provides is available at Follow the Health District on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sunrise Children’s Hospital, Safe Kids Clark County Encourage Water Safety

By | News

As Temperatures Rise Sunrise Children’s Hospital, Safe Kids Clark County Provide Water Safety Tips for a Safe Holiday Weekend

Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between ages one and four. With warm temperatures expected over the weekend, Sunrise Children’s Hospital and Safe Kids Clark County provide water safety tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe this Memorial Day weekend.

On average more than 1,000 children drown each year and more than 5,000 are seen in emergency rooms for injuries from near-drowning incidents.

“Drowning is something that can easily happen on anyone’s watch,” said Jeanne Marsala, Injury Prevention Coordinator, Sunrise Children’s Hospital and Director, Safe Kids Clark County. “We need to keep educating and reminding the community about the extra precautions we can all take to keep kids safe around water – especially when we haven’t been around pools or other large bodies of water for months due to colder weather and absence of access to pools due to the pandemic.”

Studies show that although 90 percent of parents say they supervise their children while swimming, many acknowledge that they engage in other distracting activities at the same time like talking, eating, reading or taking care of another child. Even a near-drowning incident can have lifelong consequences. Kids who survive a near-drowning may have brain damage, and after four to six minutes under water the damage is usually irreversible.

Sunrise Children’s Hospital and Safe Kids Clark County recommend the following five tips to help keep kids safe in and around water:

  1. Give kids your undivided attention. Actively supervise children in and around water, without distraction.
  2. Use the Water Watcher strategy. When there are several adults present and children are swimming, designate an adult as the Water Watcher for a certain amount of time (such as 15-minute periods) to prevent lapses in supervision and give parents a chance to read, make phone calls or take a bathroom break when they are not the designated Water Watcher.
  3. Teach kids not to swim alone. Whether you are swimming in a backyard pool or in a lake, teach children to only swim with an adult. Older, more experienced swimmers should still swim with a partner every time. From the first time your kids swim, teach children to never go near or in water without an adult present.
  4. Wear life jackets. Always have your children wear a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard while on boats, around open bodies of water, when participating in water sports or in the pool. Make sure the life jacket fits snugly. Have the child make a “touchdown” signal by raising both arms straight up; if the life jacket hits the child’s chin or ears, it may be too big or the straps may be too loose.
  5. Learn CPR. We know you have a million things to do, but learning CPR should be at the top of the list. It will give you tremendous peace of mind – and the more peace of mind you have as a parent, the better.
  6. Be extra careful around pool drains. Teach children to never play or swim near drains or suction outlets, which can cause situations where kids can get stuck underwater.

To learn more water safety tips, visit: 

About Sunrise Children’s Hospital
Sunrise Children’s Hospital is the largest, most comprehensive children’s hospital in Nevada that also serves the surrounding region and millions of visitors that come to Las Vegas.  Sunrise Children’s Hospital offers a full range of specialized services, including Nevada’s only pediatric heart surgery program and Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU), a dedicated Pediatric Emergency Department and the largest Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) in the Nevada. Sunrise Children’s Hospital is located on the same campus as Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center – Nevada’s largest acute care facility. Follow us on Instagram @SunriseChildrensHospitalLV, Twitter @SunriseHosp and

About Safe Kids Clark County

Safe Kids County works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the number one cause of death for children in the United States.  Safe Kids Clark County is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids Clark County was founded in 1993 and is led by Sunrise Hospital and Sunrise Children’s Hospital. For more information, visit or

West Nile Virus Mosquitoes Detected in Southern Nevada

By | Featured, News

Public urged to “Fight the Bite” and help curb mosquitoes’ impact

As the 2024 mosquito surveillance season begins, the Southern Nevada Health District announces the detection of the first West Nile Virus (WNV) positive mosquitoes in Clark County. With these early findings, the Health District urges Clark County residents to join the Fight the Bite campaign to reduce the impact of mosquitoes.

The Health District’s Mosquito Disease Surveillance Program trapped and identified the West Nile virus-positive mosquitoes in the 89031 and 89032 ZIP codes. In addition to identifying mosquitoes that commonly carry West Nile Virus, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are known carriers of Zika, dengue, and chikungunya. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have significantly increased in number since they were reported in Clark County in 2017.

Since starting its seasonal mosquito surveillance on April 1, Health District staff have set more than 875 traps to survey mosquito quantity, species and infected mosquitoes. Traps are placed at parks, wash channels, wetland areas, residential communities and other potential breeding sites. Captured mosquitoes are taken to a laboratory at the Health District’s Main Public Health Center, where they are sorted and cataloged by species and location. The samples are then sent to the Southern Nevada Public Health Laboratory to test specimens for harmful arboviruses. To date, more than 9,000 mosquitoes have been tested this year.

West Nile Virus, a mosquito-borne disease, reached unprecedented activity in Clark County in 2019, with 43 human cases. In contrast, there was minimal activity in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Two human cases of West Nile Virus were reported in 2023.

Clark County has seen a substantial increase in the number of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Unlike typical mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti are aggressive daytime biters that prefer feeding on people instead of birds. They are persistent ankle-biters, with a single female capable of taking many bites.

Aedes aegypti breed in small containers that collect rain or irrigation water, such as children’s toys, wheelbarrows and plant saucers, and even bottle caps. Since the initial identification of Aedes aegypti in 2017 in four Clark County ZIP codes, their presence expanded to 12 ZIP codes in 2022 and 43 in 2023.

The Fight the Bite campaign calls on people to eliminate standing water; prevent mosquito bites by taking proper precautions; and report mosquito activity to the Health District’s surveillance program at (702) 759-1633. To report a green pool, people should contact their local code enforcement agency. Additional resources and contact information are available on the Health District website. For more information about mosquito surveillance, visit

The Southern Nevada Health District serves as the local public health authority for Clark County, Boulder City, Henderson, Las Vegas, Mesquite and North Las Vegas. The agency safeguards the public health of the community’s residents and visitors through innovative programs, regulations, and initiatives focused on protecting and promoting their health and well-being. More information about the Health District, its programs, services, and the regulatory oversight it provides is available at Follow the Health District on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Evolution of Specialty Courts: A Look into Las Vegas Justice Court with Judge Cynthia Dustin Cruz

By | HEALS Pod, News

Diego Trujillo, the host of the HEALS Pod, welcomes Judge Cynthia Dustin Cruz from Las Vegas Justice Court Department 5 as his guest on the latest episode. Judge Cruz specializes in adult drug court and DUI repeat offender court, which aim to connect treatment and wraparound services with judicial oversight to help individuals struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues.

During the episode, Judge Cruz shares insights into the evolution of specialty courts in Nevada and the impact of grant funding on court programs. She discusses how the funding has enabled the court to provide essential services like housing, medical care, and identification assistance to individuals in need. By removing financial barriers, the court can create a stable and supportive environment for individuals to focus on their recovery and rehabilitation.

The conversation delves into the importance of peer support and community involvement in the rehabilitation process. Judge Cruz emphasizes the role of accountability and guidance in helping individuals navigate their recovery journey. The funding has allowed the court to expand its services and offer more holistic support to those in the justice system.

Listen to the Podcast.

Full Transcript

And I’m Diego Trujillo, the host of the HEALS Pod, recorded here in Black Fire Innovation Center at UNLV. Very excited for another episode of Heels Pod. We’re very interested in being able to explore the topic today. I have a very interesting guest that has joined me. We recently connected at an event. It was an absolute pleasure, and we’ll get into the story of how that connection went. But with us today is joining us Judge Cynthia Dustin-Cruz from Las Vegas Justice Court Department 5. Did I get that correct? You got it correct. I know it’s a bit of a mouthful. Not the name, but rather the specific court where you serve.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : Oh, the name is a mouthful too. I usually just affectionately go by Judge Cruz, but… Judge Cruz.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: It does make it a little simpler. It makes everyone feel a little more positive, like it’s going to go smoothly, right? Yes. It has a good name. Well, excellent. Thank you for coming on the show today. It was, uh, we had a very interesting connection at an event where I wasn’t expecting to have a run in. And for, for those of us listening, right, we’re setting up these different town halls and we’re trying to get, um, the voice of healthcare in front of our elected representatives. And, and sure enough, I go to this event and you walked up and you’re like, Hey, I’m running for judge. And I had brought up to the group that we’re planning all these events. I was like, what about judges? And they’re like, no, judges don’t really, you know, there’s not a lot. And that’s why I gave you the answer I gave you. Right. Because typically it’s very hard, right, for a judge, at least when it comes to health care. Well, normal, not normal judges, sorry, judges of other courts that are looking at different types of cases. And in your case, you are like, actually, you may be interested. So tell us a little bit about Justice Corps’ Department 5.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : So the Department 5 always throws everybody because everybody’s like, is that my district? What does that do? And Department 5 just means there are 16 judges on Las Vegas Justice Court. And you have to figure out where you’re going to assign cases to go. So that’s how they came up with departments. And so I’m one of 16. And then whenever there’s an election cycle, certain departments are up on the election cycle rotation. So that’s all that means.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Okay. Fantastic. And what kind of cases do you specialize in? We’ve connected on this. You made the connection. I want our listeners that immediately go, well, hold on. Why does he have a judge on, right? To make the connection for healthcare, because your answer was tremendous. And I, uh, I don’t have a history. I have been there before and was blown away at the work that that was being done at the court. And so I mentioned to you, I was like, well, you know, we’re really more healthcare focused and you, and you mentioned that you do a couple of interesting things that may impact healthcare here in the Valley.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : So right now, um, I, I’m the chief judge of the court. So I handle all the administrative duties, but I also do keep two specialized dockets and they are what’s called specialty courts. And one of them is an adult drug court and the other one is a DUI repeat offender court.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: And in both of those, I think, I mean, it goes without saying for everyone listening impacts the lives of all of us that live here in Las Vegas.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : Absolutely, because what a specialty court does is connect treatment type care with collateral wraparound services with the oversight of a judge, a district attorney, and a defense attorney. And we hold people accountable because sometimes there’s something that’s going on in their life. A lot of times it’s a substance abuse problem, it’s a mental health problem, and it’s causing them to get involved in the criminal justice system. Yeah. So our specialty courts are a way to get them to hopefully use treatment and our afferent services to not be involved in the court system anymore.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Absolutely. And I’ve, I’ve known, and just to, just to share with the listeners, because I had heard of drug court, right, uh, growing up and younger, and I’d kind of had some very, very distant connections. I’ll never forget one time someone from church, Uh, there was a gentleman that needed volunteer hours, and he was like, yeah, I’d like to volunteer, and he was in drug court, right? And so he started explaining a little bit about it was, what it was, and I was like, wow, this is a little in-depth. I thought you just, it’s a court, but they require drug tests, was basically it, right? Um, and- and that was my understanding of it. And I’ll never forget when he came very proud, he goes, hey guys, I’m graduating, I’d love to have you come out to my graduation. I was like, okay, yeah, we’ll- we’ll show up, thinking like, here’s your certificate, and… And I have never been so touched, um, emotionally by the legal system. I-I could not believe what I was witnessing. Um, typically, from my understanding growing up here, right, everything is very punitive. So, you’ve-you’ve done wrong. Here, sit in this cell, or this is your-this is your slap on the wrist. Um, and for the first time, all of a sudden, I saw a partnership between people and between the judges. And I’ll say this, very specifically, because as people are giving testimonials, right, I’m watching, you know, they show the before pictures, and this is what they look like when they came into the court. And then they would call the person up to give them their certificate, and at one point this gentleman comes up, and he goes, you know, and I forgot who was the judge at the time, he goes, you know, I was so furious with you when you sent me to this program. And he even started saying, I started looking up your address. I mean, everyone was like, all our hair kind of stood up like, wow. And he started tearing up and he goes, what you have done for me, you have changed my life and given me another. There wasn’t a single person in that room that wasn’t crying. I mean, and he just really documented the anger that he felt and everything. And the judge, I didn’t realize she was standing there. He was speaking to her. She was in the back of the room. She comes running to the front and gives him a hug. And again, I’m watching this, could not believe what had happened. And she just said, Hey, I’m so proud that you made it through. And again, he’s wiping tears away from his face. And just, it’s something I never expect. I was sharing with you before we started the podcast when I was a child, my dad, my dad was a court interpreter. And so sometimes, you know, my dad would take me along to court, I’d have to sit in all the different courts. And for me, right, it was always we were sharing earlier, the municipal court at 6 a.m., which was very early and very boring. It was the same infractions over and over. Everyone just kind of talked like it was very rote. Um, not a lot of emotion. I’d get excited because at 11, that’s when we’d go over to federal and then I’d get, oh, hey son, be quiet, but this is what the trial is about, right? And you’d see the intense cases and people testifying. And so it was always more exciting for me. I had never seen anything like this where the justice system was, uh, Again, it was almost as partnering, right? It didn’t feel like, hey, you messed up. You know you shouldn’t have done it. Here’s your punishment. But rather, hey, what’s going on? How can we fix this issue? And I think for the first time, you know, I watch documentaries on prisons in Norway and just different approaches. um, approaches to justice and rehabilitation, right? We want people to come back better as better citizens. And, you know, again, working in the community for a very long time, you saw a lot of people that would go away and they wouldn’t come out better. They just had more skills and more knowledge and more connections. It didn’t feel like there was actual rehabilitation. And for the first time in my life, I began to witness that. Has that been your experience as you’ve served? What was your interest? How did you delve into that?

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : So, um, Prior to becoming on the bench, I did, one of my areas of practice was criminal defense. And so I would see people that were my clients and they would come in and I would listen to what these people were saying. And I started noticing, you know, okay, this person’s kind of fallen afoul of things because of a disease. And when I got on the bench, the judge at that time, so I got on the bench at the start, January 1st, 2013. And the judge that was presiding over that would occasionally have me cover because you can’t just sit there and say, oh, let me just get any body. You have to have somebody that has an understanding. And then that judge was planning on retiring. So, there was a discussion about me taking it over. And so, I started going to some a little bit more in-depth training because you can’t just walk into this and just be like, hey, here I am. Yeah, ready to go. It’s kind of like somebody saying, hey, here I am. I just want to jump into the medical field. Right. You have to have some training. And so, I started doing the training.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Well, it seems like it would require obviously an understanding of the legal system, but also you kind of need to delve out to specialize what is substance You know, substance use disorder, how are the different programs, what works, what doesn’t, etc.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : Absolutely. And you have to understand, I mean, and so now we’ll hop into the medical aspect. You have to understand what’s going on with somebody’s brain. And you have to understand, you know, substance use addiction, it’s a disease. And once you start understanding how these pathways get opened up in the brain and It’s nothing different. I mean, you have people that are diabetic and, and there’s something with their body that it doesn’t produce certain things and it doesn’t do things in a certain way. And, and you’re going to have a similar issue with somebody that has an addiction. And, and so yes, I’ve, I’ve gone into the deep dives where they’ve brought in like neurologists and doctors to talk about. And there used to always be this mindset that it was completely abstinent based. You had to teach people to not use at all. And there’s really been an evolution of that to realize that there are certain addictions that really medicated management treatment can truly help somebody. And it’s not about, hey, we’re going to have this person, they’re going to be high. I mean, it’s the same thing when you see somebody with a mental health disorder. There are certain medications that can help them manage this. It’s just like any other disease.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: I would, and I would draw that same way. I was going to draw the correlation, for example, to Ozembic or these weight loss drugs, right? A lot of people are using them. They’re seeing great results, et cetera. Some people get upset because there’s kind of a cheap, but whatever that may be. I mean, people are achieving a lower weight in the same way. Um, and some people don’t believe whether, whether it’s biological or not, you know, our environment, whatever it may be in our nutrition growing up has affected that. And now there’s a medication that can help us manage that weight. It’s, it’s the same thing in this case, I would feel.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : It is. We have people that are, I mean, they’ve been addicted to a type of opioid for years and trying to get off an opioid when you’ve been addicted for years, sometimes you need an additional tool in your toolbox because they just white knuckle it for so long and then you have a relapse. And the problem is, is that when you start talking about opioids, A relapse can be even more deadly because if you want to go back and use the same dose, because a lot of times that’s what they go back to, now their body’s tolerance may have dropped and now you’re running into definitely a critical care situation with their system that they’re ODing and you don’t want to see that. You have to find that happy Marriott between where medicine intersects because yes, I do have people that are in my court that are very good manipulators and very good on the criminal thinking aspect. Right. But and getting Doctors and our medical care teams that work with addiction medicine understanding this populace is a little bit different. They do have drug seeking behavior and they’re going to be really great to tell you how many symptoms they’re having when they’re seeking something. and understanding, you know, hey, we have to work collaboratively and we have to have that the medical care team is reading what the rest of the treatment team’s notes are so that we can holistically treat this person. So when they’re telling this group A one thing but they’re telling group B something different and group C is something completely different and they’re telling me a whole different story. It’s always good because we work collaboratively together so that our teams are able to see what all these different stories are and then you’re able to know the whole picture and work better on treating someone.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Well, and I think the tool that you guys have in your toolbox, that is an incredible tool. And I’ll say this because there’s a person that I’ve known that was a 30-year methamphetamine user. He had learned to be a functional methamphetamine user. Eventually, you know, every six months would end up, you know, going on a bender and losing their job. And they found themselves in this constant mouse wheel. And it wasn’t, they would try to quit and I’m going to try to go clean and this and that. And it wasn’t until the, the, there was that issue with child support. And so he went to the court within the child support and the judge just asked him, Hey, do you, would you want to go to drug court? And at that moment that, that he was asked, he was living off Boulder Highway in like an RV, um, kind of hit the bottom of the barrel. And so, the question just came at the perfect time, and he said, yeah, sure, I’ll go to drug court. Again, thinking, yeah, it’s just, you know, it’s court, but with required urine screenings, right? And so, once he ended up going, I mean, he was able to quit using drugs, uh, he got clean, he’s been clean for about seven years now, and it just completely transformed his life. And you realize, Because you mentioned, right, a lot of people, we have this antiquated perspective on what, you know, they just need stronger character. They need to make the decision to, and I’m saying this as a Hispanic, because my God, I deal with this attitude a lot. And I would tell people, hey, you know, the drug use is a symptom, right? What you’re describing is a symptom of a deeper problem. And so while you want them to just quit using drugs, you’re not addressing the root problem. What is wrong? And you have this very unique tool in drug court where you have forced accountability, which I think is the number one. You know, when I talk to addicts working in the community, there’d be a lot of people that would get recommended to me working in church. They would bring them, and I would say, well, you know, you need to get clean. Look at these negative outcomes. And it was very interesting that they would just, yeah, no, I know I could get clean. I just, I cannot go to sober living. I cannot, I can do this on my own. I don’t need rehab. How many times have you tried to get clean? Oh, it’s probably 14 or 15 times. Okay. How has that worked for you? Right? Well, it hasn’t worked. I was like, the only thing that there, I was like, well, what are they doing there to you in there? And this was always my line of question. Are you being tortured? I mean, they must be doing some horrible things that you are just so dead set against going to a rehab. Well, no, not really. I was like, yeah, they’re making you wake up early. They’re making you take time to write down in journal. They’re making time for you to have a devotional. I mean, really all they’re doing is wanting to give your brain structure and you are fighting with everything in you to oppose that structure. But it’s not like they’re forcing you into labor or anything like this. I mean, all it is is, yeah, everybody wakes up at this time. You need to follow the rules. The minute they start giving you this structure, their brain just, it really wants to resist that, right? Especially after many, many years of continued use, you know, there’s not a steadiness in their life. And I’m giving you anecdotal information. I’m sure you have many studies, and as you’re researching in your role, and you’re watching this play out on a daily basis, no?

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : Oh, absolutely. I think probably the way that I can dial this in, not that I’m saying that we would do this, is how many people have been like, you know what? I want to lose five pounds, and I know I need to eat better, right? I need to stop eating these bad things. I’m just as guilty of this. But imagine if we sat there and said, Diego, every time you eat over a certain amount of calories, we’re going to know. And then we’re going to hold you accountable for that. And we’re going to start off with like, hey, you’re not able to and you’re going to come and tell me. I can do this on my own, right? And then pretty soon you keep going over that. And we finally are like, Diego, we, we’ve exhausted like every resource that we possibly can. Like we’re making your meals. Now you’re sneaking other foods. Like we’re working on all of it. And, and now you’re starting to exhibit lying and you’re exhibiting all these other behaviors. So I’m going to do something called, I’m going to put you in jail. to get your attention.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: We will definitely be able to manage.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : Right. You know, that’s kind of, I mean, it’s a very simplistic way, but that’s what the threat is. It’s a carrot and a stick approach. And when people come into the drug court, they will start off and they are a lot of times saying they will take anything because they think the minute that they plead to say, I’m going to go do drug court, I’m going to get out of jail.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Yeah, they think it’s a get-out-of-jail-easy card.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : We have a lot of get-out-of-jail. And then I tell people, I am going to ask you to do some of the hardest things. I know what I’m going to ask of you is hard. And they’ll all be like, oh, no, I got it. I got it. I got it.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: As long as I’m not in jail. That’s all I think of, right?

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : As long as I’m not, I call it, you know, we’re anti-blue outfit, anti-orange slipper shoes. And I tell everybody as I’m rolling them out of jail, like, unless you really like those orange slipper shoes, stay with the program. Because we do frequently have to roll people out. Everybody coming out into our program is on some form of electronic monitoring initially. OK. Because we tried it wherever they weren’t on electronic monitoring. You need a nice officer sometimes that wants to come and knock on your door at three o’clock in the morning and say, what are you doing out and about? So we have that accountability piece. Or if I do have to put them in sober living or residential treatment, it helps with that initial phase. And just like how you told me the story of people like um, the drug court that you watched. I have a lot of people that are very mad at me at the start. Yeah. Um, I have people that, you know, they want to try to see how much more they can try to outsmart us. And, and usually what causes people to end back in custody is either you, um, you either started not following rules or you started lying or it’s a behavior thing, or you just kind of tried to, wander off and not show up. You know, we usually don’t put people in custody for use, but I’ve had a lot of people tell me when I’ve had to put them in for like 24 hours, they’ll tell me that was the first time I went to jail sober. And they said, oh, it’s a big difference. It’s a lot worse. When you’re not drunk or high and you’ve got to do that, apparently it’s much worse. But that is, I mean, it’s a kind of treatment based and we’re more holistic on keeping an eye on people a lot more than sometimes. hey, I went in to do drug treatment on my own, outpatient, and I’m hopping into one, you know, two groups a week and one individual, but then the rest of the time I’m off on my own. And it really takes a community to help people in certain circumstances. Now, I’m not saying that there’s not other people that can make it happen on their own, but there are, unfortunately, some people that need that community to make that difference.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Well, and I think, again, right, so you have that saying, no man’s an island. And I think it exists for a reason. I mean, we’re social beings. And for a lot of times, there’s been failures in people’s lives, right, whether that be family. Again, I would work with young people, so I would always have the, you know, hey, my son’s punching holes in walls, and I caught, you know, I found a pipe in his room, and this and that, and they’d bring him to church on a Friday, and I’m like, You know, and they’d say, hey, is there anything you could do? And I was like, you know, I can’t undo what you didn’t do for the last ten years. I mean, I know you want a magic cure here, but, you know, when he was throwing fits and he was four years old, that’s when you should have addressed it. Now he’s a lot bigger, so it’s ending up being holes in walls. Um, and I would always tell them, you’re gonna find a limit, and it’s gonna be the hospital, it’s gonna be the morgue, or it’s gonna be the judicial system. But there is a limit to everyone and everything. And really, it’s just learning to have that self-accountability. And unfortunately, some people haven’t had that. And when they have the community of people, for me, when it comes to addiction, right, there’s a lot of failure rate. It’s very, very high. If medicine, right, I used to listen to a lot of Dr. Drew. This used to impassion me a lot. And so I just, you know, for entertainment purposes, would just learn a lot about addiction. And as Dr. Drew would always talk about the accountability portion, he would talk about what it was like for a person that was an addict. And I would use those descriptions to tell parents, right? Hey, what would it take for you to rob from the person that you love most on this earth? Oh, man. And they would say, oh, I would never steal from my mother. No, I know. What would it take for you to do that? Oh, it would be an extreme desperation. Correct. That’s what they’re going through, right? And trying to take them to a place of empathy. And because of the failure rate, I mean, you look at how much modern medicine has progressed. Um, and then when it comes to addiction and recovery, that’s why I would always get into those talks about rehab. I was like, guys, uh, as much as modern medicine has progressed in every level in treatments of diseases and things like that, 12-step programs and, you know, rehab, um, stepping out and getting that accountability, learning to put limits on yourself so that they’re not placed on you. I mean, those are all very, very intense. I-I’m… I think as you, uh, as you work in the court with these individuals, it’s something that you must consistently see.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : Absolutely. We do tell people, like, I frequently say, you know, I’ll get a lot of people, well, you’re doing this to me and you’re doing this to me. And I go, no, I’m not doing anything to you. Your decisions are what’s causing a reaction. So I tell everybody, you’re driving the bus. I’m going to hold your hand and I’m going to try to help, you know, guide you while you’re driving the bus. But you’re the person who’s in control. So if you want to take charge, you know, I’m going to give you every tool. We’re going to build a great bus. We’re going to give you a great engine and we’re going to help teach you how to most effectively drive that bus down the road. But if you want to just kind of, you know, stare off into the wild blue yonder, you know, if we’re working harder than you, then maybe this isn’t where you’re ready yet. And so many of the people that come into any treatment court, I hate to use the word baggage, but there is, they have a lot of learned experiences. And there is a lot of trauma. There is a lot that’s triggering them. And then what’s really kind of disheartening was that we have people that, you know, the more that I interact and the more that I talk to people, and I will have people and they’re doing great and suddenly they’re not. And I’m like, what’s going on? You’ve been doing so well. You, you know, you come in and you’re positive. And I have people that will literally sit there and say, yeah. And I felt guilty because I was happy. I felt guilty that things were going on good for me because I know people that it’s not. And I said, you know, so now we’re really starting to look into, you know, on that treatment aspect, you know, do we need to roll in almost like kind of a quasi survivor therapy because a lot of these people have almost like a survivor’s guilt. I also have people that have lost a sense of self-worth and that we need to tell them that they are worth a lot of this. And this is stuff that’s really started coming out in my treatment courts that is we’ve really started talking to people. I’m going to say probably in the last two years, we’re starting to hear it a lot more. And I don’t know if it’s just as treatments evolved, whether I’ve evolved as to what questions that I’m asking. You know, we do a lot of motivational interviewing, but it’s kind of me and like, hey, you know, one minute you’re standing in front of me and I’m going to start asking some weird questions here and there. But we really have discovered that, you know, I’ve never figured out and it just boggled my mind as to how people could have guilt or shame for being happy.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Right. Well, you know, there’s a really good book I remember reading called The Body Keeps the Score. I don’t know if you’ve ever read the book. I’ve heard about it. Phenomenal book. And in it, he gives an example, right, of mice that were raised. They did an experiment on some mice that were raised in very harsh environments. They would have very little food, but they would have the option of going to a nice warm place where they could stay with lots of food. And they would put them in the cage and they would let the mice out. Some of the mice were raised in those more hospitable environments. And they noticed something. It is when a trigger would occur, when there would be a stressor, the mouse would run to what’s familiar, not what’s best for it. And I think sometimes especially as walking, you mentioned community, and some people can do it on their own, they may have the community themselves, but for people that are lacking that community, and I’ve worked with a lot of people, I’d say, hey, the brain has this way of telling you, I’m okay, I’m in control now, I’ve conquered this. It’s lying to you, it absolutely is not, you have not. And the moment you hit a stressor, that’s really the moment of, okay, that’s where the growth opportunity happens, because that’s where the hurt is. And I always teach my boys this, right? Everything on earth grows through suffering and pain. Right? If you have a tree, I’ll never forget when a gardener says, no, no, you got to loosen the tree because we had a little sapling, right? And it was growing. And I was like, well, shouldn’t we secure it a little more? It’s kind of loose inside of. And he goes, no, no, no. It has to be able to wiggle in the wind. If not, it will never develop a thicker, a thicker root system. And it won’t. I totally forgot the name of the center part of a tree. The stalk.


DIEGO TRUJILLO: Yeah, the trunk. Oh my God. Yeah, the trunk won’t, won’t thicken. You need to allow it to wiggle and suffer a little bit in the wind. You can’t let it loose completely, but as, as that tree would grow, he’d give it a little more autonomy to be able to bend in the wind. And with that, it would eventually be able to establish the roots. And I think as people, you know, the stories that you’re, you’re sharing right now, right? People feeling that survival’s guilt, they find themselves in a place where they, they’ve never been okay. and all of a sudden being okay, it’s just an odd place. It’s definitely not familiar to them. And so having that support system to say, hey, this is what life can be, you know, and as you grow, you can also turn around and help people out. I think that’s where the peer-to-peer really kind of comes into play. And I would see it, I would always liken it to people. So I did bereavement, I was a bereavement coordinator in hospice for a long time. And it was very interesting. A lot of people in the community would know what I do. And one of the things would be, you know, you lose your mom, you lose your, you lose a sibling, things like that would happen in life. But then you’d have people that, you know, maybe there was a violent act. or a child that would die, and once they passed, it was very hard. You could sit in a group, but the brain would work the same. You could go to a group, I could sit here and give you counseling, I could sit here and tell you everything, but I haven’t lost a son. And at the end of the day, you’re always gonna be in the back of your mind, no matter what I tell you, you’re gonna say, yeah, I get that, that sounds logical, that sounds reasonable, but you haven’t gone what I’ve gone through. and that disconnect, right? And so I immediately learned with people that had lost children to immediately link them up with a group, a support group for people that have lost children because when they speak to you, it’s going to carry way more weight than anything that I could say because I simply have not gone through that experience.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : We do that. Peer support is so key. And, you know, you always it’s always been there. So when you look at the 12 steps and I’m going to pull on AA and NA. You know, they always talk about a sponsor. You know, you talk about your home group. These are people that have lived experiences, and that’s what a sponsor is. It’s somebody that’s going to hold you accountable, help walk you through in that learning process. And they’ve developed an entire profession, and it’s licensed now, and it’s a peer support specialist. And so not only is it critical and key and enormously helpful within the drug court realm, but they’re also having that in things like mental health courts, veterans treatment courts, they have mentors. It is, you know, everybody’s called it different things, but we’ve been all doing it for a long time, but they actually now, underneath the uh, legislature, they’ve actually codified the profession of peer support specialists now.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Yeah, I mean, you think of the human, the human experience, right? We’re going back, let’s say, 8,000, 10,000 years, right? There’s always been that example of someone that has more experience going before me and then taking me there. You look at that within trades, right? You always have the journeyman. And this goes back, even the famous artist Michelangelo, you’d always start out as just a helper, and this person would help to guide you and help to shape you. And sometimes, right, you take that down to childhood, our mother and our father, right? And if those examples weren’t there for us in a very solid way, they can really damage our ability to be able to follow somebody else. And so it’s really retraining everyone to, again, going back to that primal sense of being led, being guided, people that could say, hey, I’ve been in this, I’ve been through this experience. And this is the way that you push forward through this. As you hit those storms, or those challenges, or those triggers, the person can tell you, hey, everything that you’re wanting right now is bad for you. And you know it’s bad for you, and it’s going to lead to negative outcomes. But there’s a better way to do things, right? And so it’s making that conscious choice and helping to shift. That’s why I think this is, again, I would hear this a lot. And I used to live in Nicaragua. So again, you would always hear, well, you know, I just wish he had a stronger character. And I would sigh and be like, there’s a lot more to this. You think he just hasn’t thought of making the decision? Look at the situation he’s in. So being able to be able to support there, again, watching the court system do this to me was completely eye-opening to what kind of change was possible through the legal system. How easy has it been to lead this court? Are you guys pioneering? Is there a lot of precedent and experience that you guys can follow?

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : So we are, I’m proud to say, I sit on a state committee and I’m proud to say we have a vast amount of specialty courts throughout the state of Nevada. So we’ve been doing this for a while. It’s evolved. We all evolve as we learn, you know, as we learn as to what’s going on. So, for example, Las Vegas Justice Court, adult drug courts, like the oldest specialty court in Las Vegas Justice Court, and it originally started off, it was like a six-month program, and back then Judge Lemon would, like, run it, and he and Judge Smith, and they’d yell at you. They’d like yell at participants. And I mean, we’ve evolved so much more, even from when I took the court over in 2016. We’ve really evolved. I mean, we’re almost, what, we’re eight years? Where we started off, I came in and there were new best practices and evidence-based principles, and we revised the treatment court when I took it over in 2016. And now there’s new things on the horizon that we’re looking at, just some of the things that I’ve talked to about pulling in that stronger, formalized peer support, pulling in to realize some of these other things that are causing people to struggle and not be able to move through due to that survivor guilt, that lack of self-worth. And just as we keep evolving, it’s great to say that I’ve got my court. I do a DUI repeat offender court. We’re rolling out and just starting to go in with a mental health court. We’ve got a community court.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: How exciting is that?

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : Veterans Court, we have a lot. And I mean, that’s just at my level. And then you go up to district court and you have all those courts, plus you have more. So we’re constantly looking at ways that the court can intercede better and find ways to rehabilitate people. That doesn’t mean that there’s still not some people that, unfortunately, you are going to have to move down the stream. But even in the correctional system, they are starting to reevaluate how they’re doing things. And I’ve had discussions with the deputy chief of the Clark County Detention Center, and underneath where the sheriff’s role and the sheriff’s viewpoint is, is even looking at things differently for people that are in our jail system that are serving out shorter term sentences, not a prison sentence, and how to approach things differently there.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: And I think, I mean, you talk about evolving, right? And I think we as human beings are constantly doing that with knowledge. I would deal, again, with a lot of Hispanic communities here and even living in Central America. For me, corporal punishment was a part of growing up. I got spanked. And for me, I got spanked a lot, right? And, uh, and I was talking with a sibling, and sometimes we’re very judgmental of the past. And it was talking with a sibling, and they’re like, yeah, well, you know, I don’t spank, and you shouldn’t have been spanked. And I was like, you know, at the same time, my father grew up in Columbia. To be able to get to the farm, my great, uh, my grandfather had a farm. Had about 150 workers. It was a rather large farm there. They’d grow sugar cane. You had to ride horses for about six to eight hours to get to the farm. And I remember telling her, because sometimes she was like, yeah, you know, it just seemed unjust. And I shared, I was like, you know, I really thought about this. I really thought about this. They didn’t have time on a six-hour horse ride to tell you, hey, stop rustling around, right? Stop. Because if you fall down four hours into a ride and your bone is sticking out of your body, the consequences are going to be very dire. We didn’t live in the society that we lived in now, so it was very important the children would listen. You really need to pay attention because any mishap is really going to lead to some serious consequences. as a result with my children, right? I don’t believe in corporal punishment because I have more tools available. I have more understanding, right? And so I think in the same way, as we gather more knowledge, you know, some judges may have come from the older school like, hey, be hard because they’ve never had, you know, but one hammer doesn’t build an entire house. There’s different tools that are available. And at the end of the day, we need to be focused on outcomes. not how hard can I be on this person because look what they’ve done to society, um, but rather how do we get a better outcome here for society? How do we get an individual that begins to contribute, to view their life different, that, that’s willing to, you know, go back into their children’s lives, that is willing to make an impact and really change who they are? So as you’re, as you’re pioneering, you’re, you’re talking about all these specialty courts. You had mentioned that you had received some money, you had gotten some funding, or I believe it was over $3 million in new funding for the Las Vegas Justice Court. How does that mechanism work? I wasn’t even aware that, you know, the courts would apply for grants. I was like, wait, what? That was very interesting.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : So when I took over adult drug court, to say that I was squeezing blood out of a rock would be kind of a narrow thing.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Because you’re an entrepreneur, too. Yeah. Yeah, right?

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : We had, you know, and just the way that the billing system was going on. And I just was meeting these other judges. And they were talking about all these other things that they were doing in their court. And I’m like, I’m struggling as to how to get people, you know, with their treatment paid for and all of that. And I’d never written a grant before. And I said, all right. And I got told, you know, you’ve got to look at grants.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: It took a weekend course. You’re ready to rock.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : It was a little bit more than that. But the good thing is I am an attorney. And so I’ve learned to make persuasive arguments. I’ve learned to write persuasively. And I said, if I can write an appeal, I should be able to write a grant. The first time that I applied, I was not successful, and I went back and I read what the reviewers’ notes were because, yes, I could write persuasively very well, but there were certain things that I needed to learn how to do better. Here’s $1.2 million. Oh, wow. Over a five-year turn.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Then my third attempt— Were you expecting that on the second one?


DIEGO TRUJILLO: Or were you expecting a bunch of notes and to learn a little more?

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : I was not, and so we got that one, and then, you know, it just started the ball rolling, and then the next one was for $300,000, and then we got a $400,000. It’s just being able to, you know, once you know how to get your message there and following through with the message, you know, that’s how you get there. And that made it that we could do so much more to help people.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: And what did this funding go towards? Typically, what do you seek funding for?

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : So, you know, the other thing that I also worked on is, you know, we’ve got the Affordable Care Act. So I pulled on the Affordable Care Act because we did. We needed to figure out how we were more cost effective. Because the one thing that insurance is there for is to help pay for treatment. So we were working on making sure everybody was getting enrolled in insurance so that we could use the affordable care to pay for treatment. Then for my people that were unable or they were underinsured, now we could step in and help out with that. We’re able to help out with housing now. Peer support services aren’t covered, so we’re able to pay for peer support services. We’re able to pay more for bus passes. We’re able to pay more for transportation. We’re able to pay more for when people need identification again. We’re able to pay when there’s Limitations as to people’s insurance, we’re able to pick that up. For medications, some of these medications are somewhat expensive. I mean, if you’re talking about Vivitrol or Suboxone, you’re starting to move in on these 30-day shots. They’re expensive, and sometimes certain insurances don’t cover them. So we’re able to do so much more now with that additional funding, and we’re able to help more people. And that’s what this is all about.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Have you seen the funding directly impact the outcomes? Absolutely. So that’s something that’s directly, uh, the correlation is clear there.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : Well, I mean, if I’m, if I have somebody, so here’s what we know. If somebody is homeless, we know that they’re, you know, there’s an 80% chance that they have a substance abuse problem, a mental health problem or both. Um, so you have to find some form of stable housing. Well, the one thing that insurance doesn’t cover is housing.


JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : So if I have people that in the first 90 days so the first 90 days of moving into a treatment program that first phase you’re trying to stabilize people right if they’re so worried about Am I going to be able to stay at this location or I only have 30 days at this location and I have to figure out how to pay and I’m not even at a job yet. Like they’re not going to be able to stabilize because you’re triggering them. So if I can sit there and say listen I’m going to get you placed somewhere that you’re not going to have to worry about that financial component. We’re going to cover your housing. then now I’ve eliminated one thing that could be potentially a trigger and I’ve provided them with a safe, sober, and supportive environment. So, and it’s safe. So that’s like number one to be able to start dealing with a stabilization process. And when we have grant fundings like this, that gives us the tools to be able to keep making this momentum. I have people that they haven’t seen a doctor in years. And you know, drug use isn’t nice and warm and fuzzy on your body. So we make them go see a doctor. And I can’t tell you how many times I’d have people like, I can’t afford to do that. I had people that were being injured and I’m like, you need to go to the doctor. And they’re like, I don’t have money to go to the doctor. And that shouldn’t be, you know, you shouldn’t have because you can’t pay just to see. So we’ve also collaborated with some low cost clinics with wonderful physicians here in town to be able to see them because People need these wraparound services to get them where they next need to be. And how about this? I have a lady in, of course, a lot of times when you’re homeless, you lose all of your identification. So, you know, you have to go through different steps of things. And a lot of times it’s paying these little fees to be able to get them to have identification. And then let’s say I’ve had people that, you know, they were here lawfully here in the United States, but they’re not a U.S. citizen. And to try to get the additional documentations for that, you know, you’re having to pay hundreds of dollars. And if you’re homeless, you don’t have that money.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Yeah, it’s not on your list of priorities.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : No. And so, we have, that’s what the funding has done. I mean, there’s a lot of oversight as to what we can and can’t use it for. But that being said, the doors that having funding provides makes or breaks what enables somebody to do it. Now, I know people that they’re, you know, and I’ve had people when we were struggling with money that You know, we worked very collaboratively to find every resource we absolutely could do for them, but I did see sometimes that, you know, they were worried and they had additional stressors and this kind of eases that piece.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Yeah, I agree. I saw a presentation. His name was Dr. Jeffrey Brenner. He won a MacArthur Award for a technique called hotspotting, medically. So they would look at readmissions in hospitals, and they would notice, huh, the last five days of every single month, there was a lot of people of There’s a lot of people, and I was telling this story to my sister over the phone inside of a grocery store, and so he goes, yeah, they were looking, and they were noticing the last five days the amount of people that would come in for ketoacidosis or their blood sugar level just wasn’t managed. And so he’s looking at all these Medicaid readmissions. This was in Arizona. and what that cost was. And then he thought, well, what if we give these people $30 food cards that they could use for food? And so they started giving him $30, and I mentioned this in a grocery store, and a guy goes, oh, more handouts, like he wasn’t even paying attention. But they started noticing these $40,000 readmissions to the hospital begin to drop. And after he did that, the insurance company, it was a very large insurance company, he said, hey, will you allow me to buy an apartment complex, and we’re just going to give these people a place to live? We’ll give them a social worker, and we’re not going to charge them anything for one year. And they, well, what are the conditions, and this and that? They can drink, they can use drugs, that’s, we’re not going to limit that. This is their apartment, this is where they could live. And he showed a video of what it would go like, the interviews, the rate of recovery, how it increased. Not just that, but I’ll never forget, while they were going through somebody’s apartment, he goes, please, he paused the video, he goes, please take note of how this woman keeps her things. She’s been in this apartment for six months, and all of her things were in bags in the closet. because she wasn’t used to unpacking that stability, right? And you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and what we need to be able to self-actualize and break out of those cycles, um, where we just feel hopeless. There’s no way out. And so when someone gives us that chance, that dollar can go a really long way, um, for many people to be able to break out of that cycle. Are there any cases or memorable experiences that you’ve presided over as a judge that have kind of jumped out at you or really stuck with you? I’m sure you have some very interesting stories.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : So I love to tell the story about one of my former, he graduated, but he came in and he first got sent to the court and we released him and he left.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: And we were like, OK, so I’m going to issue this before the ankle bracelets or the electronic monitoring.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : Yes. And because he came to me when he wasn’t in custody. And and so we put him somewhere and he left. And I was like, OK, well, issue the warrant. And you know what? I want to say like two to three weeks later, he comes in the door and he’s I will never forget. He’s wheeling in a purple suitcase. And he comes into me and he says, I don’t want to live that way anymore. He’s like, I know how to do this. I can run. I can dodge the system. And, you know, I can wait until Metro finds me and runs my name and puts me in jail and I serve out. He’s like, I can do six months in jail standing on my head. He goes, but I don’t want to live like this anymore. And he stood in front of me with his purple suitcase crying. He’s like, I just need help. And I said, OK. I can help you. But you’ve got to be ready to try to do this. And we put him in a sober living facility called Freedom House. And this young man who went from living in a tent in a desert that his entire, all of the things that he had in his life was in that purple suitcase. Um, no idea, no nothing, no job. He now, um, not only does he have a job, not only does he have a car, not only does he have a house, uh, not only does he have an ID, um, you know, I get, uh, I get messages from him and he’s like, I went to Indonesia.


JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : You know, he’s like, I can travel. I don’t even blink. He’s like, I don’t blink when I give people my ID. There’s no issues. He’s like, I, I remember him showing me pictures at his graduation. And we talked about the purple suitcase and he would show me pictures of before he, before he got into recovery. And I always would joke, and I’d be like, OK, that’s your rib cage? Because you’d be like, I’m fat now. I’m like, that’s your rib cage. That’s your intercostal muscles. That’s not like that. That’s your visceral organ. That’s not it. And when we looked at every smile, I said, do you notice the difference between your smile today and smile then? And I said, there you look like you’re baring your teeth, and now it’s like genuine. And I tell that story, and I just had a young man that I graduated last Thursday. And he thought he had no problem. He thought everything was okay. The mother of his child had separated from him. He had no visitation. He didn’t see himself as being homeless because he would go and couch surf. He got very serious charges against him, and the district attorney must have seen something in him, or he had a defense attorney that argued. He graduated last week with me home. His ex-wife came to the graduation. He has the co-parent now together. He has his kids. He has, he has a wonderful job. He has like everything. And you just watch these stories of people. I mean, I have another graduate and she just got married and she’s in Bali right now. Wow.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: So it’s like watching people’s life come to fullness and they’ve just accepted this bare bone existence. And all of a sudden it just, you see it come to life.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : I’ve had people who tell me at graduation that they were so angry with me that I made them go into somewhere like a sober living facility, which was a roof over their head, a functional bathroom, food, because they thought that living in a tunnel with other people that were around them, with no bathroom facilities, no running water. I mean, you were living in a sewer tunnel that you thought that was OK. And it wasn’t until I forced them to go into something else that they realized that was not OK, and they should have never realized that was acceptable.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: How eye-opening. And I would feel like it’s something that’s so unique to your line of the judicial system, right? I’m sure other judges don’t feel like this about their job. You know, I thank you for the seven years in prison. You realize, I’ve realized that that tax fraud that I committed, you know, was a mistake and you’ve made me a better, right? Here’s an update of how I’m doing. This is very unique to your line of work, huh?

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : It is. I mean, and I’m sure there’s a lot of people that intersect into our justice system that probably are in that similarity. But a lot of them aren’t ready to kind of take the chance to do this, or they don’t want to. They’re not ready. And it’s an unfortunate thing that there’s a lot of times, and we’re revisiting, you know, as to, you know, if you failed out, you know, when we think it’s appropriate for you to come back, because it used to be that, you know, we didn’t want to keep pulling on taxpayer resources to try again and again and again. And we also didn’t want it to be a situation of like, OK, well, you didn’t make it this time, but you know what? You can come back in three months and pick up another crime and come back. But we are having discussions about that because we do know sometimes people just aren’t ready.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Yeah. Yeah, there’s kind of a sweet spot to really make that come to fruition. It’s kind of tough. How do you balance then, and let me ask you this, we’ll shift a little bit, because when we met, you handed me your card, and you said, I’m up for election, right? How do you feel when the election year comes up, right? Because now you’re focused kind of on two things, because there’s work you’ve been doing, and I’m sure you’re passionate about it. If you’re writing these grants personally, you’d like to see them executed and deployed. You want to see the outcomes on that. What is the dichotomy there within you on how much attention you give to each?

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : It is that I joke that my re-election campaign is a second job now, so I am working two jobs. And some of the things that are unique and they intertwine together. It’s just like how I walked up to you at a networking event and introduced myself in hand card and like, hi, I’m running for re-election. And you just looked at me and you’re like, I’m really nice to meet you, but you know. Right, not a lot I can do, but I’ll vote for you if you want. Yeah, right. But it’s like having this intersection. OK, yeah, I’m running for re-election. I met you. But now I’m doing my job as a public servant because my job as a public servant and my job as chief judge of the Las Vegas Justice Court is to talk about what we do. The storytelling. and how we intersect and how we help improve not just our community but it is public safety that we’re talking about also. So it also allows me to blend and have that I’m doing sometimes wearing two or three hats because I’m also a chair of what we call here’s a big long word the Clark County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council which is a whole bunch of people sitting in the room talking about systemic criminal justice issues and how we fix it. So a lot of times, um, I may have a meeting with somebody like you and I may come in to be like, Hey, I’m having, I’m sitting down with coffee with you to talk about my reelection campaign. But somehow that translates into, I’m not talking about my reelection campaign. I’m talking about what we do in Las Vegas Justice Court for specialty courts. And you know what? I’m also now going to talk about how does that intersect with my role as chair of the CJCC because how about if we find a way to diminish that pipeline going into the jail and into the courts and where do we intersect with the community to help out with that and where does that Fall into with what you can do and that’s where you know, sometimes, you know, I joke that I’m like, okay I might be working two jobs, but and I might be talking about three different things but it’s all with having my eye in the windshield as to what’s going on because that’s what That’s what being an elected official about is doing public service.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Yeah, and it would seem the tie-in, the role that you play and how you need to be tied into the community. I mean, this is different than maybe other courts where they’re not so actively engaged with all the social services and everybody else, right? The support system isn’t needed as much. maybe he’s a little more punitive or whatever it may be, just by nature, it seems here, you would not just have a vested interest in seeing these people rehabbed, but hey, now that I have this passion and I’m building, you know, I’ve worked on this baby that I’ve helped to raise, how can I make sure this baby has the best chances? And how do we make sure people never even come into this court, right? How do we really start partnering up Because, again, I think our country had an idea of what addicts were and what addiction was, and all of a sudden that really shifted. In the last 30 years, in the last 40 years, we began to see, you know, people injured at work that all of a sudden hears a prescription, or in a car accident hears a prescription, all of a sudden gets pulled, and the only thing they’re left to do is, well, where do I go to now to get this, right? And so, I think as that, as that, as addiction began to touch more, you know, suburban America and people start to see the face of this and understand it, we really see the collaborative nature that’s required to pull ourselves out of this. And so, I can’t imagine, in your case, where you’re, it’d be like running to maintain the business that I’ve built, right? And so I’ve worked hard on this business for six years. I’m watching the impact it does. And, hey guys, can I keep my job? Can I continue to do this? Right? Which is, it’s kind of the, the, the nature of, of what you do. Uh, what do you feel distinguishes you from your opponent? What do you try to focus on as you’re, as you’re going into the community with this storytelling and sharing what it is that you do?

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : A lot of it is my track record. So, I mean, specialty courts is just one thing that I’ve been working on since I got on the bench in 2013. So, you know, my slogan is experience matters. And we’ve talked about this when we talked about people with learned experiences and people that had to apprenticed and people that had journey. I mean, I’ve been doing this. I’ve been an attorney for over 20 years. My opponent is a very, very bright young lady, but she’s only been an attorney for five years. So, I keep trying to tell people, like, listen, you know, experience matters. I have a good track record, and I have that it hasn’t just been like, hey, I just go in and I, you know… Yeah, I’m milking it. I jump on the bench and I do my job as a judge on the bench and I preside over cases and then I get off the bench and I take off my robe and I, you know, go home and turn it off. It’s definitely been more than that and it’s, you know, it means that I’m in places and I’m in meetings on Fridays and on Saturdays and on my days off because sometimes that’s when community partners and stakeholders, that’s when people are available to do about that or it’s writing a grant and thinking about things a little bit more outside of, it’s more than what I do just sitting on the bench.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: This is community work, what you do. I mean, the community work that you do is just in a completely different setting than the rest of us out here trying to connect the dots and trying to make it happen and the wraparound services and everything. You just play a different role within that community.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : Right. I call it being a collaborative stakeholder because that’s what it is. We can’t, yeah, we’re, you know, we’re a different arm of the government, you know, the whole nine yards. But that being said, you know, I had somebody say to me the other day, I was in a meeting and they said, My goal is to put your treatment court out of business.” And I said, bring it on. That’s awesome. Because if you put my treatment court out of business, it means that you are getting to people that have need before they ever run into a police officer, before they ever go into the Clark County Detention Center, before a case ever comes into thing. So please put me out of business. Put my specialty court out of business because of what you’re doing so far down the road. But in the meantime, let’s figure out how we work on this journey together.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: A hundred percent. I’m with you. You know, you mentioned the experience thing. It always reminds me. There’s a saying that Hispanics mom will tell their children, which is, you know, the devil knows more for being old than for being the devil. Right. And so what mom? But it means I’m older than you. I know what’s happening, right? They kind of share that experience with us. You reminded me of that when you mentioned it. So if people want to find out a little bit about more, a little more about your campaign, a little bit about what you’re trying to achieve and what you would achieve if elected again, where can they send their friends and family? Where can they go and look?

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : So I have a website. It’s So that’s C-R-U-Z, the number four, Um, I am also on, uh, social media. So, uh, I believe my, my, uh, I’m reelect judge Cynthia Dustin Cruz on Facebook and then on Instagram. It’s, uh, I think judge Cynthia Cruz on Instagram.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Okay. And that way they can follow in all the updates of what you’re doing now and also for the reelection as well.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : Yes. So, you know, as I’m running around in the community taking lots of smiley pictures. Right. Seems to be. But yeah, it’s definitely, you know, I think the public struggles because You get these names on the ballot for judges and no one knows what’s going on. And so that’s why I also think it’s such a critical thing, even as my role, not just, hey, I’m in campaign reelect me mode, but as the chief judge of the court to keep working and educating our public as to what we do in Las Vegas Justice Court and why it is important to figure out who your judges are, especially if they’re going to be elected.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Yeah, I agree with you. Well, I really want to thank you for coming on. I think that we’re definitely going to have to have you on with, uh, as we go, we’ve been exploring and putting on these panel for opiate response. And there’s a lot of really interesting things happening in the community. I love highlighting them and spotlighting it. And again, I think it’s us working together as a community, uh, when it comes to healthcare, when it comes to homelessness, when it comes to mental health, when it comes to substance abuse disorder and, and all these different areas, I really look forward to being able to sit down and speaking with you, uh, hopefully when you win more grants. for the court system, no, to see these outcomes and see what changes we can make to be able to make an impact in our society. I really want to thank you for coming on and being able to share with our audience. For everybody listening, that was Cruz, C-R-U-Z, the number four, That’s, and they can get more information. And then, as you mentioned, it was Judge Cynthia Cruz on Instagram? Yes. And then I’m sure if you look up Judge Cynthia Cruz on Facebook, it’ll also come up.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : Sure. A lot of times it comes up as either Judge Cynthia Cruz or re-elect Judge Cruz. Re-elect Judge Cruz? Yeah. OK. I’ll be on the November ballot. And underneath the full, long name, Cynthia Dustin Cruz, because that’s my full name. But I don’t make people do that. It’s a mouthful on court. Right.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: It’d be a little trickier. Well, thank you very much for coming on and sharing with our audience, for everyone that’s listening. Uh, this is The Heals Pod where we try to highlight all the amazing programs and all the amazing people in our community to be able to share the story of a thriving healthcare system here in Las Vegas. Thank you very much for tuning in and make sure to visit Cruz for Judge. That’s the number four, Thank you very much for coming on with us, Judge Cruz. Um, and we look forward to having you on again.

JUDGE CYNTHIA DUSTIN CRUZ : Thanks so much for having me.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Have a wonderful day.

The Impact of Organ Donation: A Conversation with Christina Gilbert of Nevada Donor Network

By | HEALS Pod, News

Our goal with HEALS Pod podcast is to shine a light on the companies and leaders that serve our valley to help us get to know the ins and outs of our current medical system and what can be done to improve it. Here is our conversation with Nevada Donor Network’s Christina Gilbert. Click here to listen.

Full Transcript

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another episode of Heals Pod. It’s a pleasure to be able to have you join us today as we get into a very interesting conversation. My guest today is Christina Gilbert from the Nevada Donor Network. And we’re very excited to discuss not only what this organization does, but also what she does in her participation and how is it that organ donation works? What is the process? And just shedding a little bit of light on what that looks like because many people aren’t informed. Welcome today, Christina.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Thank you so much for having me, Diego. It’s wonderful to be here.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: You said you weren’t nervous, so it should be very comfortable. Well, the nice thing is we try to take a lighthearted discussion to be able to keep it enjoyable and entertaining for everybody. So no pressure whatsoever. Great. But we did want to dig in and find out a little bit about Nevada Donor Network. You know, they are a well-known organization here in Southern Nevada. They’ve done a good job at branding. But we want to kind of delve in a little bit, maybe about things people don’t know and kind of clear up some misconceptions and things like that. So thank you for joining us on this journey.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: No problem. I’m happy to be here.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: We’re hoping you’re going to make it good. Right? But as we start today, so how long have you been with the organization?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: So I will have been with Nevada Donor Network for seven years this month, and let me just tell you, it has been the most amazing adventure I have had in my professional life. Personally, I’m very passionate about the mission and bringing awareness to our cause because organ, eye, and tissue donation truly does save and heal lives every day, and it’s a very beautiful thing to be a part of.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Absolutely. And I think one of the things that I was excited on this podcast, actually, as we were discussing, because it’s one of those things that people nod and go, yeah, absolutely. But they really don’t know anything about it. And I know, you know, the Nevada Donor Network has been a member of HEAL, so I’ve been around a few of the employees and kind of talked. I remember going when they did the grand opening on the laboratory. That was very exciting. And just learning the depth of what it involves and the lives impacted. I know I’ve had people in my life that I have known that have been severely impacted by organ donation, not just in their personal life and needing a transplant, but some of them having to relocate their whole family to Sacramento just because the 14-year-old needed a kidney. I wasn’t a kidney, actually. It was a different organ for her. I had another friend that had a kidney transplant, and luckily she was able to do it here in Las Vegas. So what does Novada Donor Network do?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: So Nevada Donor Network is the federally designated OPO or organ procurement organization for a majority of the state of Nevada. We are responsible for recovering organs and tissues for transplant to help save and heal lives all around the world. So it is just at the core of our mission to be able to bring awareness to that as well because obviously we would like Nevadans to get registered, understand the process, understand what goes into it and how important it truly is.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: And do you see that as a large challenge? Is it something that you feel like, OK, we’re 70 percent there, we’re 80 percent there, or is it just an ongoing battle of education and, you know, getting people signed up and getting people on board?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: So I’m happy to share that Nevada has 64 percent of our state that is currently registered. The national average state by state is 54 percent.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: So we’re above the national average. I’m going to start touting that.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Yes, I know it’s something to brag about. And I think that, you know, it’s a matter of having that conversation that can be really tough. All of those different conversations in life. It’s hard to think and speak about death and dying and that’s, you know, a part of what we deal with every single day. And I think it’s more so just being comfortable enough to share your wishes, to share why this means a lot to you and why it is something that you want that truly does move the needle. and spread that awareness and education about organ and tissue donation.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Well, and I know that this is something, again, when you discuss it and you’re talking about the families that are looking to have that discussion, I mean, there’s a few discussions. And just to clarify for the people listening, when you talk about organ donation, there’s multiple conversations you’re having, I would guess, right? And correct me where I’m wrong. The first conversation is, are you an organ donor? And what there’s have to be different misconceptions around each one of those conversations because even I talk to people and they’re like, no, so the paramedics can leave me there dying so they can donate my organs. I was like, wow, that’s not at all how that works, right? It’s not like someone sitting there with a timer like, okay, we’ll give him five more minutes. And then at that point, you know, if he doesn’t, then we’ll harvest organs, but that’s not the case, correct?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Absolutely not. So that is the most common myth and misconception that we hear is that if someone knows that I am a registered organ and tissue donor, they won’t do their best to save their lives. Well, we know that HEALS especially supports the first responders in our community, and we know the medical oath that they take to save lives first. And how I view donation is a light at the end of an incredibly dark tunnel for them. It is sort of that peace and solace for the heroic donor families when there is nothing else, life-saving measures, are no longer effective, there’s nothing else that can be done, then donation becomes a conversation. So I think that’s where the line has to be drawn, is to understand the process and that nothing can happen until all of those life-saving measures have been ended and are no longer possible.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Yeah, it’s no longer viable. And then at that point, you know, once you’re seeing that nothing else can be done, okay, let’s have the next conversation. That’s when the organ procurement conversation comes up.


DIEGO TRUJILLO: Right. And so some people are somehow afraid that it’s going to intervene with their care. And I noticed very much in dealing, I worked in hospice for seven years. And so when you’d have that conversation, even being people right there, many times you’d bring up, hey, you know, you want to discuss final arrangements, and you would be shocked at the percentage of people that would not respond. Absolutely. I worked, remember one night at the hospital, we did a, you know, final, final arrangements day and we had the, you know, the five wishes and we’re handing them out. And we had nurses walking from trauma and saying, ah, no, you know, we did. Hey, have you had your final arrangements? No, not right now. I’ve been really busy. And we’re like. Man, you see all the wild accidents that happen, all the crazy things. I mean, we always assume that death is very far off. Regardless, even if they said, you know, you only have six months and people will still, you know, that part of denial where we’re just pretending that it’s, it wouldn’t happen to us or, you know, we’re not a statistic, whatever it may be. But with organ procurement, do you find that same challenge when you’re having that discussion or people that immediately standoffish or no, no, no.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: I think that the conversation really does take two different paths. It’s a matter of the knowing what your loved one and your hero wants, or it’s having to try to figure out and understand them as a person and understand, is this something that they would have wanted? So I think in the time of grieving, and anyone that’s out there that’s listening knows that feeling of loss when you’re in that grief so heavy and when it’s fresh, right? happening at that moment, it’s hard to understand what decision to have to make. So if that decision is already made, there’s a sense of peace. And so when you have that path of the conversation, knowing and understanding, it just makes things a lot easier for all of the loved ones that are involved.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: No, I agree with you on that. And I’ve always been very clear, like, yeah, no, absolutely. I’m an organ donor. And if anything happens, yeah, they’re there. Because I think, you know, when you’re dealing with death and you’re dealing with a lot of questions, I had found when working with families is that it’s always the why. Why is this happening? Why? We’re trying to make reason and trying to understand where these things happen. And one thing that I did see amazing, we actually had a very good friend whose son was tragically struck on a motorcycle. And we remember when it all happened. And then, you know, the questions are going to remain there and there’s not an answer. You’re not going to find an answer. And so when the choice is my favorite line from A Man’s Search for Meaning, right? When the choice for suffering has been removed, how we respond is really what it comes down to. That’s the only choice we have left. And for me, that was always very impactful because the person’s been lost. There’s nothing you can do at this point. That’s already happened. And so how we respond to that, and I think that, and this is just a little, I’ll give you a little plug, I think that was the most beautiful thing about watching the entire donation process, is taking something that seemed meaningless, it seemed chaotic, it seemed like it was just, why could this have happened, and all of a sudden turning it into a beautiful story, and not just one beautiful story, but multiple beautiful stories.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Absolutely. And I think one of the most beautiful ways that our family services coordinators have described it to me and the way they share with loved ones of heroic donors is that your loved one’s story can end with a period or it can end with an and, an ampersand. It can continue on through donation and the ways that you impact other people’s lives. And I just found that to be incredibly beautiful. And, you know, with my own personal connection to donation, obviously I’m very passionate about the mission, I also see how it impacts loved ones and family members to have that knowing that their legacy of their loved one lives on.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: And do many people want to know what happened?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: I think that it really is just dependent on personality types. I think it’s kind of cut right down the middle. There are people who really want to understand and know and take in. be around a recipient’s family and the recipient and know them. And then there’s some people that this loss is still too profound for them to communicate about and speak about that they maybe will accept a letter or they’ll send a letter, but they don’t want any further communication. So it does have to be mutually agreed upon. And everyone’s grief journey is different.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Yeah, that’s completely understandable. I mean, I could not I wouldn’t want to put myself in a situation where I’d have to make that consideration. So I definitely don’t want to judge anybody on their decision when it comes to those things, because it’s highly personal. And again, everybody’s story is very different. Every relationship is very unique. So it’s always very important to kind of remain nonjudgmental and just understanding. I mean, people have their process of going through what they’re going through. Exactly. Have you found or have you found that many families find a rewarding reward in maintaining that communication? Because you mentioned it was split. Are there any people that that kind of go through that and think, you know what, never mind, I don’t want a connection or I don’t want contact?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: I think what I have really noticed is and from the words of a heroic donor mother is that they have found a purpose after their son, specifically Courtney Kaplan, and the loss of her son, Mikey Sigler, you know, she always says, now I found my purpose. My purpose is to bring awareness to organ, eye, and tissue donation. She is connected with his lung recipient, double lung recipient, as well as received a written communication from his liver recipient. And she welcomes that. And she’s open to it. And, you know, she really hopes to hear from more of his recipients because he had a couple more as well. And I think, you know, we’ve just recently within the last couple of weeks have had a husband as well as a daughter that met a heart recipient out in Utah, which we will be sharing a video during this month as well on our Facebook page. But I just think truly it does give them. when you’re searching for that sort of meaning, it can give you that.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Yes. And then all of a sudden you understand when a family can come and say, hey, thank you, because of what you went through, I’m able to now have this. This is the way I’ve tried. And you brought up Courtney. That was a friend I was talking about, because we knew her for even a few years before the accident had happened. And that was, again, watching her process for me has been something… I don’t want to say beautiful, because it sounds… It’s making the most out of something that is very unwanted, right? Yeah, it’s a tragedy that just shook everyone. And all of a sudden, we have an opportunity. And this is something very unique. I mean, this is not something humans could do a thousand years ago. No. Right. And so this is a unique opportunity to really take something, make something out of something that was completely lost and allow it to create a blessing for others or to be able to impact other lives positively.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Exactly. And I think there is really something that’s special about that to see it grow as well as see how someone has that journey through their grief and why we You know, have services like our aftercare team, our family services coordinators that walk alongside our heroic donor families to make sure that they have the resources that they need.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Yeah. And again, the correct perspective, because sometimes we shift right in those moments and it’s very hard to maintain a perspective. I would do that. Excuse me, I would do that with many families. What does a chaplain do? They would assume it was always religious, and I would tell them, no, some people are not religious at all, and I’d still spend time with them. My role was really maintaining perspective. When someone would tell me, yeah, you know, my mother’s dying. And this is just heartbreaking. I can’t continue.” And I’d say, you know, while that’s true, it’s the evidence of love. It’s because you’ve had something that you’re feeling a loss. There’s some people whose mother passed, and they don’t think twice, because their mother was never involved, or there was never that connection, or their father, or what have you. the grief that you feel is the evidence of love. And when people would shift perspective, it was very powerful. I’d be in rooms, you know, and a family would go from being devastated and crying about a father on a ventilator, and they would just shift, and I would watch this family give thanks for the dad that they have before they unplug them. And so for me, it was very important to be able to help people maintain perspective. Because that’s very hard. And I know I’ve had to have people, you know, when you run into problems, you’re just focused on frustration and anger and everything that comes around that, right? And there’s people that step into your life to, you know, ask certain questions where like, no, you’re right, right? You know, that it was a blessing having him or, you know, it was a huge impact. And so as you have those discussions, it helps you to remain focused.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Yes, that’s a very powerful point.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: It’s incredible. And I’ve always thought that amazing about your organization, right? There’s not just a person out there trying to go procure organs, right? There’s an entire team that steps in on every way. I noticed this even in the laboratory, because I had seen laboratories. I had never thought about how complicated it would be to, hey, we need to test this. We need to make sure that it’s all clear. And we need to do this, like, now. Yes, it’s very timely. You don’t have three months to get a result back.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Yeah, and there’s so many people that are a part of the process. We obviously have our local transplant center here at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, UMC. But then we’re also working with transplant centers to find that perfect match, the United Network of Organ Sharing, who ensures that, you know, everyone who is in desperate need of a transplant is listed and they are able to receive that perfect match, which that’s something I would like to share. There is a huge need. There’s over 100,000 Americans that are currently waiting desperately for an organ transplant, and almost 700 of them are Nevadans.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: And that’s what I wanted to ask you, right? Regarding that need, I’d like to unpack that a little bit. What does the need look like, aside from 100,000 just in the United States, but you also trade organ. I don’t know if trade is the right word, so correct me where I’m wrong, but there’s also, it’s international.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: So we work with organ transplantation just within the United States, but outside of the United States, there is, for example, we do work with different ophthalmologists around the world to help bring the gift of sight to people through corneas. Going back to your experience in hospice care, this is another common myth and misconception is someone will count themselves out. They’ll say, I’m too sick. I have this disease or I have this going on with my health, so I’m not able to be an organ donor or my age, whatever that is. And I always say the gift is saying yes. When you say yes, you bring hope to those people that are waiting, but also you can give the gift of sight through your corneas. You can give the gift of healing through tissue, that’s bone grafts. different types of tendons, ACLs, you know, different things that can help give people their lives back in not maybe the way we traditionally think of from an organ transplant perspective, but it does heal them and it gives them their life back.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, functionality, it definitely makes an impact. And again, what you’re saying, right, that the gift is the willingness. It’s just instead of discounting yourself as to why I’m not good enough, we all need to be proud of the organs we have. They’re all useful in some way or the other.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: And the desire to give. I mean, that to me is such a reflection of your character, and it inspires others as well. By having the conversation, I think that surprises people a lot and why we love to share stories and tell people always, share your why, because that really can inspire someone. And like you shared, we think even when a doctor tells us six months to live, well, we don’t know what tomorrow holds. I could be driving home after this, and I don’t know what could happen. So I think at the end of the day, it truly is about sharing your wishes to not only know that your loved ones understand what means the most to you, but even aside from that, to inspire others to also want to give back.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Right. And I have different, again, I agree with you very much on one side, right? For me, while I don’t I don’t believe we live in a society that necessarily there’s not a reason why someone should be generous, right? Because everyone has their own belief systems and values. For me, generosity is a very, very important character trait that I pay attention to and something I try to exercise in my life. But just from a completely utilitarian standpoint, So if you argue philosophically, and I’d get in these arguments with people, I’d say, you have something that’s useless, and you can make something very useful for a lot of other people. This is kind of a no-brainer, unless you hate efficiencies in the universe. But, uh, it just, it would seem that, yeah, we cannot change the circumstances. I would understand if we were like, hey, you know, you either have the option that your dad lives, or you donate the tissue. Okay, well, you know, That’s a tough choice to make, and if anyone were to ever make that decision, good on them, and kudos for being generous there. But on this one, there’s no other benefit. The circumstance is what it is. The situation has already occurred. And again, from a utilitarian standpoint, this is the most good for the most people. Something could come out of this. And for me, it’s a pinnacle and a testament to humankind and what we’ve been able to achieve. Something that we couldn’t do a hundred years ago. Yes, it’s beautiful. The fact that death was it. You got there and that was that. I mean, everything was lost and all of a sudden we figured out a way to be able to salvage that and to be able to make an impact on other people.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Yeah, and things have come so far. Speaking to, you know, my personal connection to donation, when I was only five years old, my grandfather actually passed away at 51, waiting for a heart transplant. And he was here locally at Sunrise Hospital. waiting to get medevaced out to Salt Lake City to get listed for a heart transplant and unfortunately he was sick and he had many years of fighting. He had a congenital genetic heart defect and There was nothing he could do. He was the healthiest person. You know, I think that was in my mom’s side of the family, constantly swimming, running, eating healthy. And unfortunately, those were just the cards that he was dealt. But still, even knowing that and knowing that he wasn’t able to receive his gift, he still was registered. Of course, my whole family, we’ve always had conversations about donation, but he was able to give the gift of sight to others through his corneas. Locally, they ended up staying, and then my grandma actually received two thank you letters from his recipients, and just that gratitude is what got her through a really, really dark time.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: And I completely understand. That’s what I was talking to a little earlier, right? I can’t even imagine as a donor what that feeling has to be getting that letter. Again, there’s nothing there but a loss. And all of a sudden it becomes a thank you. Something beautiful comes out of that. And that’s got to be a very incredible experience.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: It truly is. And I mean, now we’re talking, you know, not to age myself, but 30 years later, and my grandma still brings it up. She’s in her mid-80s, and it’s still something that means so much to her. So I think that ripple effect that it creates, it’s just truly immeasurable.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: So digging into that a little bit, right, what is the impact? When you think of one person donating, what is the impact that one person could have with donation?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: So when one person says yes and gets registered to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor, they can actually save the lives of eight others through organ donation. and heal and enhance the lives of 75 or more through tissue donation. So that’s a very large number. I mean, can you imagine? And with tissue donation, the gift can be preserved for a longer period of time, just depending on what the tissue is. And so that can continue to give back over several years and make an impact on so many others. So I’ve seen people who have gone on to, you know, impact a few hundred lives through their tissue donation.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Yes. So it’s not just simply one organ from one person to the other. There’s a huge impact here.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Yes, there truly is. And imagine how you change things, right? When we were talking about, you know, Courtney’s story, Harold, Mikey’s lung, double lung recipient, he was able to be with his son when he you know, got married and then became a grandpa and all of these things that happened. And he was being told, had he not received that gift, I mean, he maybe had days to live. Yeah. So imagine how different that story would have been. And because Mikey said yes and made that decision, it completely changed the lives of all those people.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Yeah, it changes a huge story. Absolutely. Again, from the utilitarian standpoint, to me, this is a no-brainer. So hopefully we can convince some people that are listening today, and hopefully to make the choice. I think sometimes these are the kinds of things we’re apathetic about. But again, and we think, well, tomorrow I’ll do it, or I can do it on a later date. Yes, I’ll deal with it when it happens. This is something, again, none of us have any writing on the wall that says, oh, this is how long, or a barcode on our neck. I think that was the number one question I’d get asked when meeting with a family, right? When you meet with a family, they just receive the worst news they’ve ever had. They would always, well, do you have any questions? After I would explain, yeah, do you know how long he has? And I would always tell them, you know, unfortunately, none of us do. You may have pancreatic cancer, but I may leave this building and get T-boned at a stoplight. And that’s that. I didn’t have time to call anybody, reorganize my priorities, nothing. I mean, we really fool ourselves, in my opinion, on a constant basis. We live in a very sanitized world where we’re just not exposed to death. It’s not something we see a lot, and it’s always in the back of our minds way back there without realizing how close we are constantly. I say this as an avid outdoorsman. I really love hiking and anything that has to do with outdoors, backpacking. And it’s very interesting when you begin to take people back, having to explain people or you take them out and you think, hey, you have to remember how meaningless you are to this mountain. So one poor decision on your part, the mountain will not be phased in the least bit, right? And all of a sudden it’s brought… Yeah, we’re not in a city where you could just get rushed to a hospital. We’re looking at 12 hours before you’re even rescued on a broken bone. And that’s not if it’s sticking out. Right. And so I think people live in this very sanitized world. You’ll see this sobering look come on people and be like, wow, this is this is. Yes, I know we’re outdoors, but it is it is very, very dangerous. And you need to be aware of that. Right. Yeah. So. Your involvement with the organization, what did you do before you had worked with Nevada Donors?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: So prior to working with Nevada Donor Network… I’m curious as to your journey, right?

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Yeah, my journey. You’re a wonderful speaker, right? And you have the life experience. Thank you. The connection. But when you unpack it, what was it that drew you in?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Well, basically, I had a very corporate America start to my marketing career. And I worked with GES, Global Experience Specialist, does all the large trade shows in town. And I enjoyed it. I had a great team. I mean, I think what I really felt was the need to use what I’m really good at and my skills to give back in some way. It’s just who I am and a part of the core of, at the center of who I am and what I love doing. And so I ended up working with Whole Foods Market for some time after that, getting into the retail space. But what I really got to do there that I loved was partner with a ton of nonprofits. And I’m like, I’ve got to find this.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: That’s what pulled you in. You were like, wait, there’s rewarding jobs out there? What?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Something that I can do and be passionate about. And I had no experience in the medical side of things but I think what I brought to the table obviously my own personal experience with the mission but aside from that it’s passion right? I think that’s what beautifully pulls together the people who create our team is these are people that will sit down on the floor in a hospital room and cry with a donor family you know and their son who’s just lost his older brother I mean I’ve seen so many stories where you can just the passion just really exudes from each of us. And so I randomly saw this position and I shared it with my grandma and she goes, well, you know who that is, right? And I was like, no. And she was like, well, that’s who, when your grandfather passed away, he donated his corneas. So this again, back in 93. That drew the connection in and you’re like, okay, this isn’t just a random. This is moving me to where I should be. And I went through the interview process and I just completely hit it off with the team. I’ve never looked back since seven years almost this month, and what a beautiful month to start as well because it’s National Donate Life Month, which is our big observance that we celebrate each year to bring awareness to organi and tissue donations. So yeah, it’s just very, very meaningful to me.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Yeah, it sounds like it was the place where you needed to be. Yes. Right. Well, good for you on your journey. Thank you. So and when you’re dealing with families to be able to connect and even people that are considering donation to be able to tell your story must be very powerful. Does the entire team share that? Does everyone have that background or is there a connection typically?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: I think there sometimes is and there sometimes isn’t.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Not that one is better than the other.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Totally. Yeah, there’s a little bit of both. I think definitely when you are able to have that empathy to understand, of course you can meet a heroic donor family where they are, but I think our team is so empathetic. You just have to be a certain type of person to be able to be a part of our team. And I think that there is just that character and quality that we have and it’s beautiful and if anyone listening is interested in joining our team I highly encourage you slash careers and please check us out because I think that, you know, anyone in the healthcare realm of a professional totally looking, but we also are just looking for the right member for our team.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: That’s a big part of our culture. Because it’s a very rewarding job. I remember, and again, coming from hospice, it was very funny because I’d have people that would try to, Hey man, you’re a really good talker. And you know, could you do this? And they, they tried to get me to switch over. And it was really funny because, uh, Whenever people try to sell you things, they always sow that doubt. But, you know, are you ever tired of that grind? That nine to five? And they make me, like, ask me these questions. I’m like, no, not at all. I mean, yeah, I cry with families on a monthly basis. This is the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. Having people tell you, you know, the death of my mother was the worst experience, and you made it the best it could possibly be. There’s no compliment or anything that someone could say. I mean, that feeling of going into work was not, it wasn’t a drudge for me, at least. Oh, totally. And so once you find that position, you’re just like, wow, this is it.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Yeah, it truly is. And I have had that come up so many times for me personally over the years. I had a best friend who lost her younger sister, and I visited her the night before she passed to be there for the family. And she was at Nathan Adelson Hospice. Her mom said, well, I would love for her to be a donor, but I just think she’s too sick. And I was able to have her connect with her nurse who then communicated with our team and she was able to give the gift of her heart valves, her corneas. So that right there was like It’s just, there’s nothing, like you say, that can meet that or pull you in or just show you, like, this is where I’m meant to be.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: It’s a very human connection. It’s very hard to describe. I could tell. I could see it when you’re talking about it because it’s something that’s very hard to describe to people because typically we’re generated, well, how about what’s your income yearly? What’s your, you know what I mean? The things that we typically shallowly value. But in a moment of death, they’re valueless, right? Those things are not important. Your television, for me, that was always probably the greatest gift for hospice, when I’d look at what hospice did. And even in my own, because everyone says the same thing, well, you know, I just want to go to sleep one night, and then that’s it. And I was like, not me. You know, after working in the hospital, I very much would like for someone to say, hey, you only have about six months left. Stop worrying about all that stuff that is not important. Stop all of it. All the things that you, you know, you feel like you’re lacking or missing or this. And it’s time to refocus on who is around you and what do you want to do with the last days of your life. For me, it was, you know, at first, because I was one of those, I was like, I want to go in my sleep till all of a sudden, like, no, I would love to be able to know. to be able to, you know, what would, I always thought if I got in an accident, right? Because we drive a lot marketing. And so I would always think if I die in a car accident, which is not unlikely, seeing how drivers in Las Vegas are now, I won’t shift the blame to them. It’s everybody else that moves in. But seeing how drivers are and just how dangerous those things can be, right? People really seem to undervalue. And I’d always think to myself, if I were to die, what was my whining for the last five days? What did I complain about or what things were wrong in my life? And are they really that important? Right? I do a lot of refocusing work, I like to call. And that was definitely one of my exercises. And this isn’t something I follow. I just started doing this because I… I would start watching videos whenever you’re having a really bad day. I would watch videos of like a zoom out of the galaxy. I don’t know if you’ve ever done that. No, I haven’t. Yeah, just go on YouTube and type in, uh, type in a zoom out and it starts in like a city, then it zooms out to the state, then it zooms out to the country, then it zooms out to the planet, then it zooms out to our galaxy or to our solar system, then it zooms out to our solar system being part of a smaller galaxy, which is then a part of the Milky Way galaxy, and all of a sudden you think, yeah, my problems are not that important, right? Whatever I feel is like the end of, yeah, it’s not that. We are a blip, and so it would always help me to refocus, and I would always do that in my gratitude. What would be my complaining for the last five days, and is it really that important that I’m letting it occupy my mind? And then through my, and this is something, again, working in hospice that I would tap into continuously. And I’m sure you experience that as well, right? How many complaints do you want to have a day where you might get in an argument with a partner, or you might get in a fight with a relative, and then you go to work and think, wow, it really can be a lot worse. And this is not important. We used to have our office on the first floor of a building, and on the third floor was a child’s oncology. up center here in Las Vegas. And I remember, you know, I’d be flustered and I’d walk in and, you know, busy because I have real problems and they’re really, really important and I’m important and I need to take care of. And I’d see four young kids sitting in a chair with mom and dad because when someone has, you know, a child has cancer, it’s the whole family that has to kind of deal with it. And I just immediately would stop and just be grateful as soon as I got to my office and think, all right, slow down and just handle the problems you have because it’s not the end of the world. Right? It could always be a lot worse. So as you’re going on a day-to-day, what does your day-to-day look like?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: So really it just depends by the day and truly another reason I love this role is we could be out doing an education for an organization that wants to have us. We have someone that educates our youth population as well as, you know, going to schools, doing all those things. Heading out to the Nevada DMV, over 99% of registrations come from DMV offices.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Those are the key players of the organization, all right.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Yes, you know, different people like that. We have partnerships with hospices.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: What does that look like out of curiosity? I’m just, I’m kind of curious now.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Sure, like the DMV education. Essentially, it’s a lot of gratitude. Clipboard in the parking lot? Well, it’s more it’s a lot of gratitude. It’s you know, I think that they are our front line. We truly view them as that because they are required to ask that question to you know, give you the opportunity to receive that heart on your license. But, you know, there is such this attitude when people walk into a DMV, I don’t want to be here, it’s something I have to do.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: I think everyone feels that, right? The ones that are there and the ones that work there.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: There’s some incredible people that work there and there’s people also that work under those roofs that have been impacted by donation and are passionate. So really it’s about awareness and them obviously having such a short interaction with people who are making that decision, but understanding, hey, you don’t have to be the expert, but we provide resources like brochures and, you know, there’s just branding about the mission within DMVs that they are supportive of. In September, we celebrate them through National DMV Appreciation Month. And I think it’s really just saying thank you and then allowing us the opportunity to, you know, just have that education and share more about donation.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: And it’s being able to transmit that passion. Because I can tell you, did you fill out box eight, check yes or no, versus, hey, would you like to be an organ donor? And if, you know, No, I don’t want them taking my body just because, but that’s not that way that works. And having them take the time, they don’t have to explain it. Yes. And so being able to transmit and motivate another individual to be able to carry your message effectively has be, uh, must be somewhat challenging, especially again, when you work at the DMV, cause they’re dealing with all of us and having lived with all of us, right? We know how frustrating we can be sometimes. I include myself in that. Because it’s all of us. Totally. We always had a joke when we were in school that, you know, you know, people, what was it? We would always say people are dumb and we’re people too. So we really need to take a step back whenever we want to be judgmental of someone else. Cause we make some comments or might make an opinion or whatever it may be, but it’s important to be able to network. So what other positions? So how, how else do, do people fill in?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: So we also liaise with different partners around the state. So whether that’s a funeral home, a hospice, we work with law enforcement agencies, fire, of course, our local coroner’s offices as well, which help facilitate donation on a different side than, of course, our hospitals, who we also work with as well. We have an entire hospital services team who is out doing those educations and ensuring that they understand what, you know, they need to do in order to get in contact with us, all those different things. I mean, there’s so many moving parts consistently on a daily 24-7 basis of our mission that, again, as we discussed, death happens when it happens at any point. And so we always do have a team member that’s available to go out and be there for a family, work with a nurse in a hospital, Just be there to continue to make the donation process move forward.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: It’s a pretty large operation. It is. So seeing this, how big is the need then? And when I say the need, obviously everyone needs to be educated on this. You guys are doing a great job. The number was 64% you said? Correct. Okay, so fantastic kudos on that. The marketing team is doing very good at getting the message out there. What is the need as far as procurement? I mean, are we talking every hospital ten times a day? What does that look like?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: There’s no exact number, but obviously aside from the numbers I shared with you about the national transplant waiting list, our local waiting list, there’s also the actual, you know, every day, 17 people pass away waiting for the gift. So even though there’s that over 100,000 people waiting, those are people coming on and off of the list, right? Because they’re too sick and they pass away. There’s also every eight minutes, someone’s being added to the list on average. And so there’s just a lot of dynamics that the more people that are registered, the better. We all carry, depending on what our race or ethnicity is, unique genetic markers that make us the perfect match for someone else. So it’s incredibly important for people in multicultural communities to get registered. Over 60 percent of the national waiting list is someone with a multicultural background.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Do you find a challenge culturally?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: I think from a cultural perspective, it revolves less around the generosity of donation and more around the death conversation, the maybe distrust in the medical system. You know, it’s more of those types of things. I am Cuban as well as Middle Eastern. And then my grandmother, she is English-Irish Welsh. So I’m a little bit of a mix of everything.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Yeah, you got all the challenging cultures. No, I’m kidding.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: So my grandma on one side, who lost my grandfather very young, she’s had her funeral planned down to what music is playing since he passed away.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: And this is what each of you will read.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Yes, literally. She does, you know, over at Davis, where my grandfather is buried. But then on the other side of things, my Cuban side of the family, the day that someone passes away, the funeral is then getting planned, things are getting figured out. It’s just a matter of making those conversations more normalized and being the change. We say that every time during National Multicultural Donor Awareness Month in August, be the change.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: See, and I asked that, so both my parents are Colombian. So I am 100% Colombian, but manufactured here in the U.S. And yeah, it’s crazy. I’ll tell people, it’s very funny because you grow up here, Hispanic, and your parents will always complain and be like, oh, well, you know, sometimes you just think so American. I’m like, well, yeah, I didn’t ask you guys to raise me here. So on some parts, I’m very American. On some things, I’m very Hispanic. And that was one that always killed me was the lack of planning. You know this is coming, you’re on hospice, and yet afterwards we’re all, where are those documents? Where did they leave this information? Would they have wanted this? All of the things that we easily could have had a simple conversation about, that now we, you know, and it’s not just left to guess, like, where’s this paper? But a lot of them are very, very deep questions. Would they have wanted this? Am I going to live with regret of making this decision? Totally. Right? And I think that’s a big fear. When I would talk with families in hospice, I would tell them, you know, the biggest thing with hospice coming in is you have a team of professionals that deal with this on a constant basis. And having that next to your side allows you to make much more informed decisions. And it takes away the fear of walking that unknown path, which I think a lot of people have. And sometimes, I would find that when you’re specifically speaking with Hispanics, I can’t speak to Middle Eastern and all that, but when you’re dealing with Hispanics, it was a very, well, we don’t give up. No, we don’t give up. We don’t even talk about giving up, right? That was kind of the mentality. In the case of my father, he had kidney failure, so there was, I mean, there was going to come a point where you were going to choose, I don’t want dialysis anymore, unless something else would have happened suddenly. Um, but eventually it did come to that point where we had to have that discussion and, you know, I had a physician come that was a friend of mine at the hospital and, you know, she stepped out of the room and she goes, hey, do you want me to hit him direct or do you want me to sugarcoat it? And I was like, no, he needs to hear it. And she walked in and said, listen, you will die by yourself in a chair. I cannot believe they’re dialyzing you. You will die in a chair by yourself in a cold room, or you can go home and be with your family today.” And he just said, I want to go home, right? It was a really powerful moment, but he had to hear it. And so sometimes, again, we live with these blinders on. So I always think culturally, especially when it comes to organ donation and that distrust of the medical system and, well, you know, they’re going to say, oh, here’s a good one, right? As if a doctor has a lead or is getting, you know, $25 for every organ they donate or whatever that may be. To be able to discuss that’s why I was curious as right culturally as you engage if there is a constant shift depending on the population and I think for me personally you know now being a part of the mission.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: sitting down, having a conversation, talking about my work, my abuelita, 86 years old, bless her heart, she randomly is like, Cristina, we’re watching her telenovelas.

SPEAKER_01: And she’s like, you know, I don’t know that anything in my body is good, but I’ve been registered as an organ donor for 25 years.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: And I was like, wow. I got what I got. If you want it, it’s here.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Yeah, she’s like all about it. And it was literally because I am now in it. So she felt comfortable speaking about it. And hearing that, I was like, Wow, that’s really all it takes is just continuously bringing it up, being inspired, being passionate, and anyone could be that way.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: It kind of like, it drops the stigma when it’s brought up in discussion on a regular basis, right? So I always had this, I know, no, let’s not talk about this subject. And I’m like, mom, we’re all going to face this, right? We’re all going to come to a point where we hopefully where we, you know, can choose hospice. Some of us won’t, but this is a conversation. We’re all gonna die. We’re all guaranteed this, and yet we want to avoid this conversation as much as possible. We’re just adding a bunch of pain into everybody else’s life and difficulty and things that are unnecessary. We’re already having to deal with your loss, and now we have to say, well, what are we gonna do here? What are we gonna do there? So it’s very interesting as you have those discussions. Culturally, I’m sure the difference is a lot. I remember talking about hospice with some physicians from the Middle East, and they’re like, no, you know, we… One of the physicians said, because I don’t know if it was reflective of all, he goes, no, no, no, we always give people good news. We never tell people the bad news, right? Going back to if a bride asks you, you know, is she the most beautiful bride? And she is absolutely not. What do you do? Do you lie or do you tell the truth? And so he’s like, you know, we always want to give people hope. And so that conversation would kind of stick there. And I was like, oh, I don’t know if I’d want to live that, right? I think I would want a clear picture to at least make the best decision. Yes. And so I think with organ donation, it’s the same thing, right? The subject’s a little icky, but we’re all going to die. This is an inevitable fact. That’s like us having to do taxes yearly, and no one wants to talk about taxes. You’re not going to get too far. Totally. So it is very important. So where can someone now, now that we’ve convinced the 20,000 people that are listening today, Now that we’ve discussed this, how can somebody register?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: So it’s incredibly easy. So a lot of us know about, of course, going to a Nevada DMV office, checking yes to the organ donor question, receiving that show of support, that heart on your license. But aside from that, if you don’t have an appointment at the DMV for a long time, you can actually go to, get registered at And it’s incredibly easy. It can happen in literally 30 seconds.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: How do you check? They can look at their license and see if they’re registered or not.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: So essentially, we do not. And this is something that I’ve also commonly found with heroic donor families. When they share and they do educations, Actually, no one is looking for your license in that moment. Again, the first responders are responding to the medical crisis that’s going on, you know, doing their best and absolute best to save your life. But aside from that, it’s actually we have access to a registry. So that’s why the communication has to happen with us. And then we can confirm that registry, whether you register online or at the DMV. So if you’re still and I share this with people, you’re still like, you know what? I just really don’t want to have a heart on my license. I don’t feel comfortable. Completely fine.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: That’s why the online registry was created So you can know that that is the decision you made and then share it with those closest to you And then the decision is made if there’s people that are sticking to their guns thinking no I don’t want this on my license because the paramedics are gonna immediately just let me go There’s the option to not get it on your license and still register as an organ donor

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Yes, exactly. So if you are an iPhone user, there’s actually an option within your iPhone health app as well. But is incredibly easy and you can do it literally right now within 30 seconds.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: And what about for people that are not, they’re not in the position to, or let’s say they already donate, is there something more that they can do?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: So if they are already registered, there is the option if you are very passionate about donation and our mission, you can actually become a living donor as well and you can donate one of your kidneys. There’s also the option. I have seen people to donate a portion of their liver because your liver does regenerate to full size. And so you can actually give that living gift as well. So if you are passionate about being a living donor… What do those positions pay?

DIEGO TRUJILLO: So there’s… You’re kidding, right? You’re like, sir, sir, we do not… Yeah, right.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Yeah, no, it’s illegal to sell organs and tissues in the United States. But yeah, there are ways to give back through living donation. I mean, A kidney is the most weighted on organ in the United States. So you can do an altruistic donation if you don’t know anyone. But if you do know someone that is listed, desperately waiting for that gift, go get tested through their transplant center. They can give you their information to their social worker. And they can make that happen. And you can live with one kidney. We all only need one kidney to live.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: OK. And that’s a guarantee?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: That is what is medically possible. There are some people that are only born with one kidney.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: I like the caveat you gave there, right?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Yes. So yes, it is a way to give back. And I have seen people thrive. And really, really beautiful stories that have come from living donation. A woman, we shared this story on our Facebook page, that shared her niece by donating a portion of her liver.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Oh, that’s incredible. Yeah. So the last and final question I wanted to ask you today, right, is how can people get involved with National Donate Life Month? You mentioned that there is a month dedicated where we recognize donating life. How do people get involved?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: So it’s incredibly easy. We have a whole webpage of resources that they can actually access at slash april. And from there you can see ways to share more about our mission via social media. We have our annual Hope Glows, which is our fun run slash walk that’s going to be at the end of this month on the 27th in Mountain’s Edge at Exploration Park at 5 p.m. There’s so many different ways to get involved, so I would encourage you to check out that page.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: What does that event look like for those that have families and are looking for something fun to do?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Oh, it’s so much fun. So essentially how I view it is it’s really like a visual image of what donation represents. Glowing a light, you know, it’s at night. We host it. Everything is glowing. There’s just a lot of good energy It’s very family-friendly DJ food trucks and it’s just to celebrate the gift that organ I and tissue and bringing awareness, right?

DIEGO TRUJILLO: I’m sure everyone begins to have the conversation some people might be attracted just by the event but be able to find out because I think I feel like when you share that, people think, well, you know, I’m probably not good enough or I smoked for 20 years. We discount ourselves from the ability to be able to participate in a more meaningful way than we even know.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Never count yourself down. The gift is saying yes.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Do you guys turn people down and say, well, you’re too sick?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: So, of course, there’s a medical evaluation that does occur, but that is not something that anyone needs to worry about.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: Right. Don’t do that at home. Yes. Allow the medical experts.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Let the medical experts and professionals make your wishes come to fruition and just say yes.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: That’s fair. Well, I want to thank you for coming on today, Christina. Of course. This was very, very fascinating. Thank you for coming and sharing both from your experience and the rest of your teams and what everyone goes through there. How can people get, can you give us the website again if they want more information?

CHRISTINA GILBERT: So if you just want to learn more about organ, eye and tissue donation and figure out ways that you can get involved with Nevada Donor Network, head to and we have plenty of resources and different things that you can connect with us to be able to learn more about our mission.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: And then they can also go to that website forward slash April if they want to go to the Hope Glows event.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Yes, exactly. And learn more about different ways that you can get involved with National Donate Life Month all month long.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: This is incredible. Well, thank you very much for coming on. Of course. It’s been a pleasure being able to interview you today, and I think there’s a lot of guests that listening to this definitely learned something. I know that I did, and I’ve interacted quite a bit with Nevada Donor. I feel like every time I hang out with someone, you guys are so resourceful. There’s always more that I learn. Thank you so much. Thank you very much. We had not had the pleasure of meeting though. Yeah. So yeah, after this experience, I feel like I got a new friend out of this podcast. Definitely. Well, thank you very much for coming on. And, uh, and we look forward to interviewing in the future when you guys get new news to be able to share on your lab and new developments that are happening because we, and this is another number I really like, we are one of the top organ procurement organizations now.

CHRISTINA GILBERT: Yes, we are. And we continue to have a number that we can. So I don’t have the exact numbers specifically, but I do know that our team continues to be and we love to share this the best in the universe. And through the supportive Nevada community that does believe in organ and tissue donation, we continue to make our mission.

DIEGO TRUJILLO: We could take it to 70%. Yes, exactly. Hopefully, if we all participate. So at the very least, at the very least, if you want to help out, tell your neighbors, tell your friends, say, hey, this is something, have that conversation with them. Again, I think you’re right, Christina, bringing that up and having that discussion around death and who we are afterwards, I think is very important. I think it kind of helps us reflect on our humanity and be able to share that. And I think that’s a conversation that everybody should have. Yes. So, thank you very much for coming on once again. And ladies and gentlemen, thank you for jumping on and listening to another episode of The Heels Pod. My name is Diego Trujillo, your host. Thank you very much. Have a great day.


SNHD Marks Hepatitis Awareness Month

By | News

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month and the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) is encouraging people to get tested for the virus. SNHD’s Sexual Health Outreach and Prevention Program (SHOPP) offers no-cost hepatitis B and C screenings as part of Sexually Transmitted Infection Express Testing at two locations, year-round:

  • Main Public Health Center, 280 S. Decatur, Las Vegas, NV 89107; Monday – Thursday, 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • Fremont Public Health Center, 2830 E. Fremont St., Las Vegas, NV 89104; Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

There are different types of viruses that cause hepatitis. The most common are hepatitis A, B and C. Viral hepatitis is a serious public health threat that causes thousands of deaths each year, and hepatitis B and C are the leading cause of liver cancer. Viral hepatitis causes both acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) liver disease, resulting in more than one million deaths worldwide each year. Millions of Americans have chronic viral hepatitis; most of them do not know they have it. Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C, but it is curable with treatment. There are safe and effective vaccines available for both hepatitis A and B.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all adults aged 18 years and older are be screened at least once in their lifetimes for hepatitis B and C, with every pregnancy, and periodically based on increased risk factors including incarceration, injectable drug use, a history of sexually transmitted infections or having had multiple sex partners.

Tens of thousands of new cases of viral hepatitis occur every year in the United States. Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that may have no symptoms and may not be detected for many years. Chronic hepatitis infections are a leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation.

In Clark County, 29 hepatitis B (acute) cases were reported in 2023, a nearly 50% increase from the 20 cases in 2022. There were 1,402 cases of hepatitis B (chronic) in 2023, nearly double the 798 cases reported in 2022. There were 2,382 hepatitis C cases in 2023, identified through testing, down from 2,952 in 2022.

Symptoms of acute hepatitis can include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored stools, joint pain and jaundice. Symptoms of chronic viral hepatitis can take decades to develop. Untreated chronic viral hepatitis is a leading cause of liver cancer and liver transplantation in the United States.

For more information and screening recommendations, visit the CDC website at What is Hepatitis C – FAQ | CDC. For more information on Hepatitis Awareness Month, visit Hepatitis Awareness Month | CDC.

Golden Tickets On Sale Through June 24 for Junior Achievement

By | News

The Golden Ticket Raffle, presented by the Gene Haas Foundation, returns with the opportunity to win a $7,000 prize package for as low as $50 and an updated prize structure, including weekly prize drawings. Three lucky people will win one of three grand packages of their choice. Tickets are now on sale with two options, $50 each or $100 for three.

Introduced in 2022, this modern day version of Willy Wonka’s famed ticket competition helps raise needed funds for Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada, the nonprofit organization that provides invaluable financial education, workforce development and entrepreneurship programs for local K-12 students and young adults.

Golden Ticket Raffle participants will allocate their tickets across three prize buckets of their choice, allowing them to spread them out or concentrate on their preferred package. Separate drawings for each bucket mean three chances to win. Each package has a value of at least $7,000 and includes a variety of sports and vacation packages and other prizes.

The current packages are listed below, but Junior Achievement anticipates adding more items to them.

Bucket One – two roundtrip tickets on Southwest Airlines; eight-day, seven-night Maui getaway with a stay in a studio accommodation at the Kahana Beach Resort; guitar lessons with Ted Sablay of The Killers;  signed Shania Twain guitar; Topgolf gameplay for 12, including food and non-alcoholic beverages; professional headshot session by Dragonfly Photography; three bottles of Hall Platinum Wine; $500 toward any purchase at TNT Pawn & Jewelry; One-night stay at the CasaBlanca Resort in Mesquite with one round of golf at the CasaBlanca or Palms Golf Course; and a private wine class for 20 given by Total Wine & More.

Bucket Two – two roundtrip tickets on Southwest Airlines, three-night staycation  and $250 food and beverage credit at the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, two tickets to a Las Vegas Raiders game, four tickets to eight Las Vegas Aviators games, one-hour private lesson with 5-time American Ninja Warrior veteran Mikey P at Ninja Lair, Las Vegas Golden Knights puck signed by Keegan Kolesar and stick signed by Marc-André Fleury, four Learn to Fly experiences at Las Vegas Indoor Skydiving, and a Black Canyon kayaking tour for two from Desert Adventures.

Bucket Three – two roundtrip tickets on Southwest Airlines, two-night stay at Caesars Palace with a $250 food and beverage credit, three-night stay at a Las Vegas private home, two tickets to a Las Vegas Raiders game, four complimentary green fees at Las Vegas Country Club, private cooking or pastry class for two led by Top Chef contestant Elia The complete list of prizes is here.

As an added bonus for Golden Ticket Raffle purchasers, there are weekly prize drawings throughout the raffle period. These prizes include: Fabulous Freddy’s Car Wash gift cards, four Fogo De Chao gift cards in either $50 and $150 denominations, one Southwest Airlines $50 gift card, one gift certificate to Velocity Esports to dine and play for two, one $250 gift card for Pinkbox Doughnuts, four tickets to an Aviators game, six DW Bistro $25 gift cards, and a one-night stay at the CasaBlanca Resort in Mesquite with one round of golf at the CasaBlanca or Palms Golf Course.

Golden Ticket Raffle tickets are now on sale and will be sold through midnight on Monday, June 24. The drawing will be held during a cocktail reception at the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, 4455 Paradise Road, on Thursday, June 27, 2024, in the Manor Room from 6-7:30 p.m. for the first 200 people who RSVP.

To purchase tickets, RSVP for the drawing event, or for more information, visit or call Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada at 702-214-0500.

About Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada

Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada, Inc. was founded locally in 1996. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to providing financial education to K-12 students and young adults, ages 18-25, with a curriculum that spans from budget management to economic principals, workforce skills and credit. Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada currently reaches more than 20,000 students annually in the Las Vegas area with the help of 285 businesses and 6,800 business role models. Upon completion, the new Junior Achievement of Southern Nevada Inspiration Center will impact more than 60,000 local youth. It will be a permanent site for its two capstone programs: JA BizTown and JA Finance Park. For more information visit and follow on Instagram and Facebook.

Terrible’s 65th Anniversary Round Up Program for Boys & Girls Clubs Kicks Off

By | News

— Nonprofit benefits through June 14, 2024 —

To celebrate its 65th anniversary, Terrible’s is giving back to the communities that have supported the convenience store and gas station company over the decades through an in-store round up your change for charity program, called “Mr. Terrible’s Round Up”. The initiative will focus on nonprofit organizations that benefit youth.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada is the first beneficiary of the Terrible’s anniversary promotion. With any in-store purchase of merchandise or gas, patrons may round up the total of their receipt to the nearest dollar. The difference in these transactions will be donated to local Boys & Girls Clubs from Monday, May 13 to Friday, June 14, 2024. The nonprofit provides educational, recreational and lifestyle before-and-after-school and school break programs for kids and teens, ages 6-18, at 13 clubs throughout Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas.

“At Terrible’s, we take pride in supporting the communities in which we serve, especially right here in Southern Nevada. Las Vegas is not just where Terrible Herbst Inc. started in 1959, but it is our home. With this community-driven focus in mind, we are excited to launch our inaugural Mr. Terrible’s Round Up program, and we couldn’t be happier to partner with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada,” said Bryan Breeden, vice president of advertising and marketing at Terrible’s.

“A 100% of the donations collected from the community will go directly toward supporting the thousands of Southern Nevada children who attend one of the numerous Boys & Girls Clubs campuses throughout the valley,” said Breeden. “I’d like to say ‘Thank You’ in advance to all of our customers who will be supporting this program. Rounding up your change at a neighborhood Terrible’s will give more children the opportunity to participate in early development programs that are offered at Boys & Girls Clubs.”

Terrible’s opened its first store in Las Vegas in 1959 and now owns and operates more than 80 car washes and 180 convenience stores and gas stations throughout Nevada, California, Utah and Arizona. The company is kicking off its anniversary program with Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada, because the majority of its locations are in Nevada.

“Terrible Herbst’s selection of Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada as the honoree of their 65th anniversary ‘Mr. Terrible’s Round Up’ giving program is an incredible honor and a testament to their support of Great Futures for our youth in Southern Nevada. We extend our deepest gratitude for their partnership and commitment to our mission of empowering young people to reach their full potential,” said Andy Bischel, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada.

For more information about Terrible’s Cares and Mr. Terrible’s Round Up, visit

About Terrible’s:

Terrible’s, or Terrible Herbst Oil Company, is a privately held gas station company based in Paradise, Nevada, United States. The company operates over 80 Car Washes and 180 convenience stores and gas stations throughout Nevada, California, Utah and Arizona. For more information, please visit

About Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada:

Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada is a non-profit organization with 13 Clubhouses throughout Southern Nevada. Our mission is to enable young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Focused on three main impact areas – Academic Success, Healthy Lifestyles, and Good Character & Leadership – Clubhouses provide a safe, supportive place to go (both physically and mentally), life-changing opportunities, and the chance for youth to learn, grow, and become who they want to be. Serving over 7,000 youth annually between the ages of 6-18, Clubs operate Monday through Friday before and after school, with extended hours over school breaks such as spring break, winter break, and summer break. For more information:| Facebook @BGCSNV | Instagram @BGCSNV | Twitter @BGCSNV | 702-367-2582


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Health District Survey Takes Pulse of Clark County’s Health Status

By | News

Public invited to take Community Status Assessment survey starting May 15

The Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) invites Clark County residents to have a say in improving the community’s health by taking a survey for the Community Status Assessment (CSA), a component of the Community Health Assessment (CHA) process. The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete and will be available starting Wednesday, May 15, at Information gathered through the survey will not be tied to any individual person.

Conducted every three to five years, the survey is a joint project with the Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy. It aims to assess the current health status of residents while identifying barriers to care and other relevant demographic and social issues. The survey contains 36 questions, covering topics including demographics, health behaviors, and perceptions about public health.

The survey will collect data for the CSA as part of the CHA process, which provides an overview of health information and helps identify populations that may be at increased risk of poor health outcomes. The CHA looks at core health indicators such as demographic and socioeconomic status, maternal and child health, infectious diseases, chronic diseases, mental and behavioral health, health care access, environmental health, crime and overall wellness.

The deadline for completing the survey is Thursday, August 15, and SNHD will evaluate the responses to determine priorities for the CHA and lay the groundwork for the upcoming Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) that will begin in October. Together, the CHA and CHIP will guide SNHD and other community organizations to prioritize activities and interventions for the next three to five years.

For more information about the survey, email Amanda Haboush-Deloye at To learn about the CHA process or to get involved, email

The Southern Nevada Health District serves as the local public health authority for Clark County, Boulder City, Henderson, Las Vegas, Mesquite and North Las Vegas. The agency safeguards the public health of the community’s residents and visitors through innovative programs, regulations, and initiatives focused on protecting and promoting their health and well-being. More information about the Health District, its programs, services, and the regulatory oversight it provides is available at Follow the Health District on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.