Sofia, Heart Transplant Recipient, Stars In New Organ Donation Campaign

The 11-year-old received national attention last summer when she had a surprise visit from Drake

Lisa Fielding
April 01, 2019 - 1:14 pm
An 11 year old Downers Grove girl who received a new heart last year at Lurie Children's hospital is the star of a new organ donation campaign.

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The world first heard about Sofia Sanchez last summer when her "Kiki Challenge" video went viral. Her name continued to spread after she had a surprise visit from rapper Drake while she was in the hospital; and received new heart soon after.

"I'm feeling great, awesome. I'm feeling like myself, more better than myself," Sofia said.

Seven months after her surgery, she's sharing her journey with others and now she's starring in a new ad campaign for the Illinois Secretary of State's office.

"I was really nervous and excited, mostly excited. I'm just so happy to spread organ donation awareness around. I can show people how important it is for people to be organ donors and I get to advocate for others," she said.

"Sofia is no longer a heart transplant recipient, she's a movie star," laughed Dr, Carl Becker, Sofia's transplant doctor. "Our program has now performed over 300 heart transplants."

Currently, there are more than 6.7 million people registered to become organ/tissue donors in Illinois and approximately 4,700 people are on the waiting list. About 300 die each year waiting for an organ transplant.

Ralph Lo Priore, who lost his 8 year old son Maddox to diabetes last year.
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

"He started to throw up on Sunday and he left us that next Wednesday. He developed a condition that caused his brain to fatally swell," said Ralph Lo Priore, who lost his 8-year -old son Maddox to diabetes last year. Lo Priore and his family decided to donate his organs.

"Our little boy didn't just share his heart, liver and kidneys with others, he gave his lungs to research to help asthmatics to get better medicine someday and he lives on in 37 other people through cartilage, skin and bone grafts. It gives us hope because he's still out there. He's living on for us through other people."

Maddox, who died last year from diabetes
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

The new PSA, which was unveiled Monday at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, encourages people to enroll in the Secretary of State's Organ/Tissue Donor Registry. The television, radio, digital display and social media ads will run statewide throughout the month. The commercial will also be played on more than 400 movie screens throughout the state.

"We encourage all Illinoisans to join the organ and tissue donor registry," said Jessie, White, Secretary of State. "One person can improve the quality of life for up to 25 people."

"When we were asked about donated Maddox's organs, we knew it was the right thing to do. His death doesn't make any sense, but this gives us some kind of meaning," Lo Priore said.

The campaign marks the beginning of National Donate Life Month in April.

The new PSA, which was unveiled today at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, encourages people to enroll in the Secretary of State's Organ/Tissue Donor Registry
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding