Like many native Angelenos, Ilene Feder has never been to the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena. However, the Studio City resident not only will be attending the New Year's day festivities on Monday, Jan. 2, for the 118th Rose Parade, but will have a vantage point few get to experience: She'll be riding on a float.
Feder is one of 23 individuals from throughout the country who will ride on the Donate Life Rose Parade Float, representing organ and tissue recipients, living organ donors and donor family members. The float's theme is "Life Transformed."
In 1995, Feder, then a 40-year-old international flight attendant, led a healthy, active lifestyle that included skiing, running and scuba diving. Following a routine checkup that showed elevated liver enzyme levels, she was diagnosed with a rare blood disease.
The condition caused a clot in the artery that supplied blood to her liver. Feder underwent surgery to bypass the blockage, but within nine months, it was clear that her liver was shutting down.
When her doctor told her that she would need a liver transplant, "I flipped out," Feder said. "But the support that I had from the transplant community and from my family saved me. I got heaps and heaps of information that I didn't get from my doctors."
Now Feder, who received a donated liver in August 1996, reaches out to others who are awaiting or have received a transplant. She helped start local chapters of the Transplant Recipient International Organization (TRIO) in Westlake Village and Sherman Oaks and became an ambassador for OneLegacy, the transplant network serving the greater Los Angeles area. She has also spoken at various synagogues and organizations to promote organ donor awareness.
Although Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism sanction -- and in fact advocate -- organ donation, Feder believes that some may retain misconceptions about Judaism's view.
"People think you need to be buried whole, but it's a mitzvah to donate an organ," Feder said. "It makes me feel good that my religion backs my convictions."
Feder's transplant has enabled her to resume an active lifestyle. Although she has less stamina than she had before getting sick, she has since traveled to such locales as Israel and China. She's also attended the Transplant Winter Olympics. And, of course, she's getting ready for her role on Jan. 2.
"I'm practicing my Princess Di wave," she said. "I've got it down."
The Rose Parade, with the theme, "It's Magical," will take place on Monday, Jan. 2, at 8 a.m. and will air on several local TV stations.
On Tuesday, Jan. 10, the Santa Ana/Tustin group of Hadassah of Long Beach/Orange County will host "Pikuah Nefesh -- to Save a Life," a program discussing the Jewish view of organ and tissue donation. The event will feature Rabbi Ken Millhander of Temple Beth Tikvah in Fullerton; Sharon Zepel, mother of a teenage donor; and organ recipient Lynda Trachtman. For event location and more information, call (714) 545-7162.