2007 Float Rider - Rev. Fr. Elly S. Tavarro
Living kidney donor
Age 50 ~ Orange, CA
Three months after donating a kidney to his sister Richa in 1990, Father Elly applied to be a chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital, the same place where the surgery took place. He has been a priest there ever since. His message is, “God does not want your organs in heaven. He doesn’t need your body; he only needs your soul.”
Father Elly and Ritcha's Story
Sixteen years ago, Elly Tavarro, then a young chaplain in the Philippines, became the “chosen one” in more ways than one. His sister, Richa, developed kidney problems following the delivery of her first child. After delivering her second child at the age of 33, Richa’s kidney problems progressed until she experienced complete kidney failure. She turned to her six siblings for help, but Elly was the only donor match. One of their sisters, Lilita Benitez, was working as a nurse at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, CA. Because of renowned transplant care at that hospital, Lilita inquired whether Richa could be transplanted there, and the hospital consented.
Brother and sister journeyed to the U.S. for the life-saving surgery. Father Elly remembers the day as if it were yesterday. After waking from surgery, he asked the nurse if his sister were okay. The nurse responded, “Of course she is okay, she received a holy kidney from a priest.”
Before the parade
Both siblings have remained in great health ever since the transplant. Today, Richa is a nurse in Saudi Arabia.
Three months following surgery, Father Elly applied to be a chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital and has been a priest there ever since. He currently serves as the Renal Center chaplain, and Lilita is still a nurse there as well. To this day, St. Joseph Hospital asks Father Elly to share his experience and provide guidance to living donors. A great deal of his job is counseling living donors and recipients about their decisions and their questions and to give them the same encouragement and support he received 16 years ago.
“When these people come to me, they are scared,” says Father Elly. “But after they learn I am a donor, you can see a glow of recognition in their eyes. It’s good for them to actually meet a living donor. It shows them it is possible.”
Father Elly’s message is clear: “God does not want your organs in heaven. He doesn’t need your body. He only needs your soul.”