LEMOORE, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A retired fire marshal and assistant fire chief from Kings County Fire says he had a new birthday when he received a double lung transplant in 2019 – a gift that ultimately led him to meet his first grandchild.

Michael Virden worked for the fire department for over 30 years before retiring in 2013. He received the transplant in January 2019. He says transplant awareness is a “life-saving issue.”

“If you have a loved one that needed a life-saving transplant, what would you give for that? Would you not be willing to turn around and donate your own organs?”

According to DonateLifeCalifornia.org, there are 17.9 million people registered as organ donors in California. Virden wants as many people as possible to sign up to the register to donate their organs after death.

“You’re not going to need them when you’ve passed, but there are a lot of people who could use the ones you have.”

Virden was a registered organ donor before receiving a double lung transplant in 2019. His time in the fire department highlighted just how short life can be, which is why he wants to connect those who can donate their organs after their death with the people who need them.

“You’re not going to need them when you’ve passed, but there are a lot of people who could use the ones you have.”

The retired fire marshall is keen to talk about organ donations, describing it as the greatest thing a person can do as their last act on this Earth. After receiving the life-saving transplant, Virden has since become a mentor for people before and after they receive a transplant. He tries to keep their spirits up and let them know what to expect.

“Once I started talking to these people and was getting positive feedback and seeing that I was making a little bit of a difference, then it just energized me more to do as much as I could.”

According to federal data, there are over 106,000 people on the national transplant waiting list, while 17 people die every day waiting for a transplant. For a lot of the families of those who have passed away and allowed their organs to be donated, Virden says it helps them to know that a part of the person they lost is keeping someone else alive.

“The best thing you can do in life is turn around and make your very last act to be an organ donor. That way you are passing on the gift of life to someone else.”

Becoming an organ donor in California can be done when renewing or applying for a driver’s license or ID card through the DMV. You can also sign up at DonateLifeCalifornia.org.