Lucy Jensen
Lucy Jensen

Anybody want a humongous house for 12 people, three nights in Bozeman, Mont.? A 49ers game with parking for four (oh, yes please … wait. I was outbid). How about a seven-day stay in Copper Mountain, Co.? A 48-hour wild pig hunt, maybe, or a steak dinner with all the trims and drinks for eight at Grace’s place? You do? Sorry, you’re too late.

You should have been the top bidder at the live auction of the Rita Tavernetti liver transplant benefit, where the people came out for one of their own and bought their money with them. Boy, did they. King City is world-famous for that.

From coveted peanut brittle to pies (Rita’s very own apple pies commanded a casual $17,000 and $12,000 each — two pies only, not a truck load — during the live auction!), it was a beautiful sight to behold. People helping people, such a concept; but pretty much par for the course in the City of King.

From its inception a few short months ago, the fundraiser for Rita and her as-yet undesignated liver donor, seemed as if it was going to be a popular event. You don’t grow up in an area and be vested in schools, business and community without picking up a few friends and fans along the way; but I have honestly NEVER seen so many decorated tables for a banquet as we did that night in the Orradre building.

Every little detail was accounted for and checked off the list by the many dedicated volunteers for the benefit. The steak dinner was delish (Thank you, King City Young Farmers), the auction — live and silent — outstanding (also so overwhelming I forgot one of the items I won; the auction’s crew outdid themselves) — the bar swift and fabulous — and the company, oh so good. Even my husband enjoyed himself and he’d always rather be at home with the animals than out in the community.

Love was the theme of the night and so many people mentioned that. Rita herself said, “It was an incredible evening — so many people and so much love.” Matt Gourley nailed it pretty spot-on with his comment, “What an amazing community effort! The love in the room was astounding.” Yes, it was Matt, and I think we all felt the magic in the room that evening. Nights like that make you honored to be a part of a community that can inspire such empathy and compassion for a fellow human.

So, yes, indeed, thank you for an incredible job well done by all and buckets of money raised (the bean counters are still counting). And now for the somber tone that needs to be repeated.

Rita does not yet have an accepted liver donor. Many have thus far tested, so it is not for want of trying. It is obviously a very slim window of people that can be considered for further testing beyond the basic parameters. For starters, you must be O- or O+ blood type, under 55 years old (darn) and in good health. Many of us have two out of the three qualifications required, but there is no requirement waiver available for this.

The liver is an amazing organ that regenerates — I have learned so much about it through Rita’s journey. The donor’s liver will fully recover very quickly after donation — did you know that? The procedure is not massively invasive — who knew? You are saving someone’s life — beyond words. And so, the real work starts now to try and get more people to test, more people to call up Lourdes at Stanford and say “Hey, I just think I might be a match for Rita!” (Lourdes is the transplant coordinator at Stanford, 650-724-5672. Let’s hope she gets inundated with people within the correct framework who want to test!)

And, then we wait, and the waiting is the hardest. I have known Rita for many years, our paths have crossed at all kinds of intersections in life and we are, best of all, friends. Good friends, old friends. But now she needs more than friendship — she needs my help, your help, everyone’s help. And, in this rather pushy, bossy, insistent way, I feel sure, together, we can find her donor angel.

As a village — the one I saw at the benefit — we can all find the lifesaver that will bring Rita back to her full life in the community she loves so well with her beloved family and friends at her side.

I’m hoping that you can share this tale of generosity, hope and love with others in your circle. As my daughter so succinctly put it, “If it was my Mum needing a liver, I hope people would come out and test for her!” And, yes, my daughter is testing. At least, she has the age part right, which many of us don’t, and the blood type too. Maybe she will become Rita’s angel and make this quest one of ultimate success all the way around.

And I don’t say this to brag on my daughter, a local nurse no less; but I say it to encourage you to push your loved ones forward as well. If I can contemplate and accept my daughter doing this for Rita, then perhaps you can do the same. I trust in the science, and I trust in the skills of the doctors at Stanford. I also trust in the power of love to lift up all who need it and make tough situations right, the sick well and the struggling resolved.

There have been a lot of tears shed recently and a lot of hugs and love shared in this close room that is our community. Now we need to find THE donor for Rita so she can get the surgery she so desperately needs.

Together, I know we can make this happen for Rita and her family. Boots on the ground, troops on alert. It’s time for Rita to get the surgery. A donor must be found.

Thanks for reading and sharing and pulling up a chair to my table.


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Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].


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