PARK CITY, Utah — Double donor Laura Diaz Moore donated her kidney to a stranger a couple years ago and her liver to a stranger a couple months ago. She’s one of fewer than 100 people in the world to have done so.
Her kidney surgery took place in Denver in 2019 and her liver surgery was at the University of Utah Hospital in August. Diaz Moore’s kidney went to a stranger in Wisconsin, which started a stranger chain that linked three other stranger donor’s kidneys to recipients in Washington D.C., then in California, then in Maine. So, it’s interesting when Diaz Moore refers to it all as a “very Park City story.”
Producers of the film Crowdsource For Life, a documentary about more than a dozen live organ donation stories still in its shooting phase, think it’s so interesting, in fact, that they’ve cast her in the documentary.
“I just felt like my life was so full, that I had life to give. I live in a ski town, I work on the mountain, I’m married to this great guy, our kids have such an awesome lifestyle, and to me, giving is based in gratitude, I just have so much gratitude for my life and I just feel like sharing that,” Diaz Moore said.
Diaz Moore moved to Park City nine years ago, and has worked as a Mountain Host at Park City Mountain Resort’s Canyons Village side for seven years after working at both the Utah Olympic Park and Deer Valley Resort. Her 20-year-old daughter Zoe, who used to train with the local bobsled/skeleton club, is studying biology at a college out of state, and her 17-year-old son Oliver is a junior at Park City High School. Her husband, Keith, is the Dean of the University of Utah’s College of Architecture and Planning, the job that brought the family to Park City. Diaz Moore is a lawyer who practiced in her native Illinois, Washington State, Wisconsin, and Kansas while her husband matriculated at higher learning institutions in achieving his PhD. She said, “I still have my law license but I’m kinda retired, I guess.”
One day Diaz Moore was just scrolling through Facebook and saw a post that her sister in Chicago had shared from a friend who’d shared from a friend about a mom saying that her daughter needed a kidney and was running out of time. The daughter was just 16. Diaz Moore’s daughter was also 16 at the time, and she said, “Those kind of personal stories really get to me and this one hit me like a lightning bolt.” so, she clicked on it. Happily clicking through several sites, she learned that that girl was no longer was in need of a kidney, however, it was possible to become an organ donor to total strangers on the impossibly long national list of desperate recipients.
Unlike later on when she didn’t tell certain members of her family she was double donating her liver so they wouldn’t talk her out of it, her family was supportive of her donating her kidney. But, spoiler alert, they’re all now extremely proud of her.
Diaz Moore’s new online connections explained that Denver made the most sense for all stakeholders so, knowing donors get reimbursed for such services, she traveled not only for the surgery but also for separate testing trips. The day after returning from one of those flights, she left home too late to nail the right commuting and parking situation to make it to work on time at Park City Mountain Resort and she was waiting at a bus station in her on-hill uniform. It was in that hectic moment which she said is “one of many ordinary things that would happen but at extraordinary times” that solidified her resolve to become a live organ donor to a stranger, also known as a non-directed donor. Diaz Moore’s momentary stress had her saying to herself, in her head, ‘I think this is all just too much, maybe I’m being silly and unrealistic and need to just stop this kidney testing process, out of state, for a stranger, and just focus on my fun friends and my family and my job and my life.’
Just then a car drove up with a woman driving who was wearing a Deer Valley Resort uniform. She said, “I’m doing my good deed for the day, would you like a ride to your work on my way to my work?” Diaz Moore got in with the stranger and said, “Thank you, I’m running late because I was doing my good deed for the day yesterday in Denver testing to become a kidney donor.” “No way,” replied the driver, “my brother needs a kidney!”
Diaz Moore was already administratively committed to the four-state donor chain so although she wasn’t able to start a new match test for this new friend’s brother, the extraordinary timing put her back on track to donate her kidney, and back on track to get to work on time. That was merely one Park City based anecdote which caught the filmmaker’s eyes. Two others, detailed in the film, take place on a chairlift ride up Saddleback, and when Diaz Moore was volunteering at the Park City M.A.R.C. for the Sundance Film Festival. “Lot’s of little mystical things happened,” she said.
All healed from what she described as an easy surgery recovery and back working out at Orange Theory and swimming laps at the Basin Rec Fieldhouse, Diaz Moore went home to the Chicago area to visit her mom, her father having passed away years earlier. She posted a photo of herself on Facebook attending a game of her beloved Cubs, and a Facebook friend saw the post and reached out for an Illinois meet up. That friend ended up not only being the producer of the film, but a University of Utah Hospital Transplant Services coordinator. One of the people in Utah was a man in need of a new liver. Diaz Moore told her, “Oh my God, I’ve always wanted to donate my liver. I can do that!”
There was a Facebook post by the man’s 20-year-old daughter, the same age as Diaz Moore’s daughter now. She expressed how her dad was the best dad in the world and how he really needed a new liver and they simply wanted people to see if they were a match for him or for anyone. Diaz Moore saw the post and although she said she was leaning towards donating anyway, that lightning bolt struck her altruistic spirit once again. “Okay, I’m gonna make this happen.” was her response. Because, she said, “By removing a part of you, you actually become more of a whole person.”
His situation was urgently unique in that he already had a months-prior set surgery date, without a donor as of yet. 40 other people who got tested weren’t a match to donate their liver “So it was a bit of a miracle I matched with him.” Diaz Moore quickly passed all the donor tests, and with only four days to spare before the surgery, the recipient was made aware that a donor had finally been found.
Back in 2019, Diaz Moore’s fellow Park City Mountain Hosts threw her a Bon Voyage Party for her organ with a kidney-shaped piñata and urine collection cups as white wine glasses.
She still doesn’t know her kidney recipient, however she did receive a beautiful and heartfelt thank you letter. She did meet her Utah liver recipient, and he and his wife were forever grateful. “When I met him though,” she said “I really wanted to thank him, since I benefit just as much. It causes a ripple effect of positivity and it’s like we’re all one big family that makes bigger ripples and goes on and on and on.”