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 nvdonor.org 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 nvdonor.org, get registered at registerme.org. 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 registerme.org 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 www.nvdonor.org 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 www.nvdonor.org 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.