NewsCovering Kentucky


Local LEX Market owner shares personal story of organ donation, wants to raise awareness

Posted at 7:13 PM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 19:14:37-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Local LEX Market will be donating proceeds from the month of April to help people who are waiting for a match on an organ donation waitlist.

April is National Donate Life Month, and Local LEX Market owner Merritt Carbajal said she hopes to both raise funds and awareness for the cause through her store’s fundraiser.

More than 130,000 Americans are on the national organ transplant waiting list, according to the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services. Carbajal is a living organ donor herself. In 2020, she responded to a call for help on social media from a family in Miami, Fla. 17-year-old Emily Herrera was diagnosed with kidney failure and needed a donor.

“In my mind, it was like, ‘What if my daughter Addison needed a kidney?’ I would hope somebody would stand up and do it for me,” Carbajal said.

“She was our godsend,” Herrera said. “It’s not every day that a random stranger is willing to give you a piece of them.”

Carbajal flew to meet Herrera in Florida to conduct blood work, and the test came back positive. They were a match.

“It was like this moment that I couldn’t believe. But it was there. It was finally here,” Herrera said.

“It’s like every day I get emotional because I saved her life. I’m her miracle and I’m her angel and nobody can take that away from either one of us,” Carbajal said.

Herrera is 18 years old now, and she recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of the transplant with a cake decorated with a smiling kidney. She’s in the middle of planning her future. She will graduate high school in a few months, and she’s in the middle of deciding which university to attend. Herrera wants to be a playwright.

“When I look at her and I’m able to see what she can do and she’s capable of and that’s because I shared a little part of me, it’s the most precious thing in the world,” Carbajal said.

Carbajal said she wants to encourage others to consider organ donation by sharing her story so people can see that they can give others the same chance at life that Emily Herrera has now.

You can learn more about organ donation in Kentucky by visiting Donate Life Kentucky’s website.

You can also register to be an organ donor with the National Donate Life Registry here.