Piano Player on Glee Gives From his Heart for Donate Life

Brad Ellis and Kelly LesterI recently had the pleasure of singing again with my friend – acclaimed composer, arranger and musical director – the wonderful Brad Ellis (also known as the Piano Player on Fox Tv’s Glee). Brad and I have appeared together before, but this time I learned something even more amazing about Brad, outside of his magical musical gifts.

Brad had flown back to Los Angeles, late, the night before our concert, having appeared at the Virginia Transplant Games. Not being a sports fan at all, I just figured he was in Virginia for some team sport like all the others I don’t care about follow.

But after our performance, he shared his story with me and I learned that this particular team was like no other. I am humbled and in awe of this very talented and generous man.
Now I know what really makes him tick:

“This year Donate Life Hollywood nominated me for PERSON OF THE YEAR, and, with the help of many Glee fans, I was elected to the honor. It’s been my privilege to perform and speak at Donate Life events, meet transplant recipients who compete in athletic events called the Transplant Games,  meet donor families, and, best of all, talk to young people who haven’t yet decided to be donors.

I relate to the transplant recipients, because I am one.

I’ve had 14 years of life I wouldn’t have had if my donor hadn’t filled out his DMV card as a donor, and told his family of his intentions. There are hundreds of thousands of years of life and joy out there in this world because of organ donation.

Meeting the families of donors is very moving, because while their grief is deep, they are as a rule grateful that lives we saved counter to their tragedy. And its important to note that as many as eight to twelve people may have their lives saved or subsantially improved by every single organ donor. I believe these families are better able to move forward, with less bitterness and pain because their loved one was a donor.

And finally, speaking to young people at the age when they are deciding whether to donate or not… watching someone make up their mind, it’s empowering to these young adults — they realize that it’s very unlikely that they will become actual donors, but acknowledging within themselves that their will is there to help another person, to help other human beings– it gives a person a broader, deeper, more positive definition of themselves.

Organ donation occurs at the intersection of the darkest day in one family’s experience with the greatest day of hope for several other families. Some of that hope spills back to leaven the deep, deep pain of those who grieve. When you fill out that donor card, it means that if that dark day ever comes, hope will enter many lives — and you will have made one final gift to your own loved ones.”

Coincidentally, a few days after I learned the stunning story of how Brad has been the grateful recipient of a donor heart, living each day as a gift, giving to others and spreading the word about organ donation, I received word that a friend from my college days was suddenly in need of a heart transplant. She is currently in the hospital, in shock and in fear, and Brad quickly offered his counsel and any comfort he might be able to give her and her family. (*OCTOBER 7, 2012 – PLEASE READ UPDATE BELOW ABOUT MY FRIEND)

Kelly Lester organ donor dotI have had that pink organ donor dot on my drivers license for many years. I’ve always felt strongly about sharing myself with others, should I leave this earth suddenly. If you haven’t already made your wishes clear to your family or signed up to give the gift of life, I hope you’ll learn more about organ donation and the wonderful Donate Life

Here’s Brad and his lovely wife Eydie Alyson with more:

Maybe my post here will be the one that inspires a life-saving gift. The one that will save my dear friend or another deserving loved one…

Will you please share Brad’s story and urge others to learn more? Thank you.

Follow Brad on Twitter @BradEllisPiano and on Facebook.

**UPDATE on my girlfriend from college who was waiting for a heart transplant. SHE GOT ONE!!! 🙂 And today (10/7/12), she sent me this email:

Hi Kelly,
I’m back at work, which means I’m bringing my lunches again, and frankly I’m becoming a bit of a snob about good, healthy food, thanks to you and my Easy Lunchboxes.  I pack my lunches two days at a time (at night), sometimes with leftovers from dinner … which means actual real FOOD like chicken or fish or pasta with vegetables … even on lazy days when I just slap together a sandwich, I look at the two other compartments and stick in some fruit or veggies.
In the two or three minutes it takes to microwave at my office, I look around the lunchroom and see a dozen people with frozen Lean Cuisine dinners or bags from fast food places, and I remember the days when I would dash out to Panda Express or Pizza Hut.  I wanted you to know what a great boon they’ve been to me.
Congratulations on your continued success, and YES, it does make a difference!  They’re not just for kids!