Walter Pineda has many people to thank for getting him to where he is today.
“There have been several angels in my life,” said Walter, a Gift of Hope Advocate and liver recipient. “Some of them tried to help me and I turned away and some persisted until I found my way.”
Walter had a very rough life. He was raised by his grandparents and became homeless as a teenager after they died. Even before that he was drinking and “hanging out with the wrong crowd.”
“I was feeling sick but I didn’t do anything about it,” he said. “Fortunately, there were people who wanted to help me.” The first was a woman who owned a restaurant and offered him a job and food if he would change his life. Then there was the priest who helped after an incident with a gang when Walter was forced to run for his life. Even though he promised God he would change if his life was spared, he still couldn’t stop drinking.
But the angels kept coming. Angel number three was a woman who helped him get into a program where he met a social worker. “She sent me to a wonderful doctor who was another angel in my life,” he explained.
The doctor — angel number five — told him he had to stay sober for six months before he could be considered for a liver transplant. When he relapsed, the social worker did something no one had ever done for him. “She put her job on the line and asked the director of the transplant unit to give me another chance,” Walter said. “That gave me the resolve to stop drinking.”
Walter was placed on the national transplant waiting list. On September 10, 2008, a match for a liver transplant was found. “I was scared and didn’t know if I could go through with the surgery,” Walter said. “That’s when my team of nurses started crying for me and encouraged me to accept this gift of life.”
Walter remembers that during the surgery he had a vision. “God talked to me,” he said. “He said he would close my wounds.” Amazingly, Walter explained that his scar looks like a cross.
The next angel in Walter’s life was Raiza Mendoza, Manager of Hispanic Affairs for Gift of Hope. “Raiza has given me a purpose in my life,” he said. “Today I’m leading a second life. I’m sharing my story and signing people up to save other lives through organ and tissue donation.”