Yukon High School graduate Kaylee Rayburn’s life is better today because of something that occurred when she was just 11 months old.
That’s when she received a lifesaving liver transplant.
On New Year’s Day, she will have an opportunity spread the word about organ donation.
Rayburn, who is a freshman at Seminole State College, and Oklahoma City resident Mike McClellin, a kidney recipient, have been invited to participate in the Tournament of Roses Parade.
The two will be riding on the Donate Life float.
“I am so excited,” Rayburn said.
“I was lucky to have been chosen from numerous recipients,” she said during a break between classes.
Rayburn, who was a state-qualifying tennis player for the Millers, said her life could have been significantly different had she not received her liver transplant.
“I’ve pretty much grown up as a normal kid. I’ve gotten to do everything a normal kid does,” she said.
She does take anti-
rejection medication twice a day, and visits her doctor often for blood tests, but otherwise is your average teen.
“Now, I’m going to college to get a degree,” she said.
“I hope people seeing us on the float will inspire others to become organ donors, and inspire them to think about how they live their lives,” Rayburn said.
When Rayburn was born, she was slightly jaundiced. Doctors performed routine blood tests and sent her home.
According to officials with Lifeshare, when her parents arrived at their home, the phone was ringing. The message was that they needed to return to the hospital for more tests.
The family packed up their new baby and headed back to the hospital, where they learned that Kaylee would need to be placed in the neonatal intensive care unit.
She was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a rare disease of the liver and bile ducts that occurs in infants.
She began her transplant journey when she was five months old.
LifeShare officials said she received her transplant just a few weeks after Christmas. She was 11 months old.
Today, Rayburn said she is healthy.
“In the fourth grade, I did have a hospital stay. But now, everything is going well,” she said.
“If I hadn’t had my transplant, I wouldn’t be living the same life. I wouldn’t understand the value of the life I have been given,” she said.
Rayburn said organ donation is extremely important.
“I’ve been so blessed. I have such a great support system. I couldn’t ask for a better life,” she said.
Rayburn will leave the day after Christmas for Pasadena, where she will get an opportunity to work on the parade float. She returns home Jan. 2.
The theme for this year’s float is “Rhythm of the Heart,” which highlights the musical diversity and rhythms of Africa.
Rayburn and McClellin will be among 26 living donors or recipients either riding or walking along the float, gathering around drums, a giant marimba and an exotic kora.
The kora and marimba play important parts in the passing down of stories of previous generations in song. Rising over the rear of the float are spectacular chiwara headdress from Mali; these stylized antelope headdresses are featured in dances that teach youth the value of community, in the same way the donation and transplantation community come together to share the importance of donation.
“We are hopeful that when recipients like Mike and Kaylee share their stories, it will inspire others to register to become an organ, eye and tissue donor,” said Jeffrey Orlowski, president and chief executive officer of LifeShare of Oklahoma. “Our Rose Parade honorees will not only be representing the importance of donation, but also serving as representatives of approximately 700 citizens of Oklahoma who are waiting on a lifesaving transplant.”