In 2007, after surviving atypical viral pneumonia, chronic encephalitis and several days in a coma, Maria was diagnosed with systemic scleroderma, a rare autoimmune, degenerative and incurable disease that also caused pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension, among other conditions. After being connected to oxygen machines for four years to keep her alive, the only way to save her was a double lung transplant, which was not available in her country of Venezuela.
Maria sought a transplant at several centers around the world and, after having been rejected in Colombia, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, and several transplant centers in the U.S., in October 2014 she was officially admitted for a double lung transplant at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. To cover the expenses for her transplant, she created a campaign through which she and her family made and sold more than 100,000 handmade bracelets with a message of HOPE.
After receiving the largest amount of supplemental oxygen a person can receive to stay alive and having been on the verge of death, Maria received a double lung transplant on December 23, 2014. It has been four very complex years but she has been living her life to the fullest. In 2018, as a consequence of her treatment and condition, she was diagnosed with stage 5 kidney disease, which is why she now requires a kidney transplant from a living donor.
Those who know Maria know that she is a very hard-working person who is full of love, HOPE and optimism that she transmits to those who know her. That is why none of this has prevented her continuing to help and educate humanity, even with all these sufferings. She says organ donation is the most wonderful miracle of modern medicine.
Maria has decided to dedicate her life as an Ambassador of UNOS, the Life Alliance Organ Recovery Agency-University of Miami for the Hispanic community of South Florida and Lifebanc in Ohio.
As a participant in these programs, Maria shares her experience and inspires people, especially in the Hispanic community, to register as organ donors and raise awareness about organ, eye and tissue donation. She also shares her story, in both Spanish and English, at health fairs, religious organizations, high schools, driver license offices, school presentations, community support programs and events that reach diverse communities in the United States. She is currently involved in several educational programs to continue raising awareness about organ donation.
Without a doubt, María Margarita is an example of persevering despite the circumstances that life presents to us. We invite you to know more about her history and to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor. You can follow Maria’s story on Instagram at @margaragamboa.