Teen Thankful For Her Life-changing ‘Legacy’

Kapolei resident Kimberly Ann Cabreros is excited as she talks about enrolling in Pharmacy Studies. The 17-year-old stays upbeat even as she describes the life-changing diagnosis at the age of 14 that caused her to choose that major.

One day Cabreros’ father noticed a sudden, drastic weight gain and took her to the doctor where she was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, an autoimmune condition that leads to kidney failure. Within a year her condition had deteriorated to the point that she was undergoing dialysis several times a week, and her name was added to the national wait list for a kidney transplant.

Kimberly Ann Cabreros

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Organ donor advocate Kimberly Ann Cabreros. Photo courtesy of Legacy of Life Hawaii.

In 2010 a kidney became available, and Cabreros underwent a transplant. Right away she felt less tired and her health began returning to normal. Now, two years later on April 28, when Legacy of Life Hawaii held its annual Donor Remembrance Ceremony, Cabreros was happy to play a key role in reaching out to the donors’ families to thank them.

“Legacy of Life showed a video with me and two transplants,” she explained. “After that they had a slideshow of all the people that passed away and donated their organs and tissues. We also did a ceremony where we released butterflies into the sky in honor of the people who died and donated their organs and tissues. I was fortunate enough to release a butterfly for my donor family, to represent transformation, showing that life does go on – even after they died, – someone who received the organ is still living and has been given a new life.”

Cabreros said that many of the 376 attendees present thanked her for the comfort

and hope her story gave them. Meanwhile, she will continue having to take medicine twice a day for the rest of her life, but she said it beats undergoing dialysis several times a week. Medicine has been playing a highlighted role in her life for a while now.

“When I was in the hospital when I was first diagnosed,” she said, “they had me on 12 different medications all at one time. I had nothing really to do, so I would talk to the nurse and ask what does this medication do? It was like a little game, looking at the medicines and understanding what they do to my body. I was so into it that I wanted to go and study it.”

The honor roll student retained that motivation, and now that she has graduated from Kapolei High (May 18), she will pursue Pharmacy Studies at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.