Media Advisory

For Immediate Release:

April 18, 2018

Media Contact:

Tania Leets



Celebrating the Gift of Life – One Year Later

Transplant patients and families unite at National Donate Life Month event at Jackson Memorial Hospital


Sam Madison Jr., kidney transplant donor
Kennedy Madison, kidney transplant recipient
Ralph Zayas Jr., double lung transplant recipient
Don Steigman, chief operating officer, Jackson Health System
David Zambrana, chief executive officer, Jackson Memorial Hospital
Luke Preczewski, vice president, Miami Transplant Institute
Rodrigo Vianna, director, Miami Transplant Institute and chief of liver, intestinal, and multivisceral transplant


For more than 45 years, the Miami Transplant Institute (MTI) at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center has been making miracles – by giving a second chance at life to patients from all over the world.

To celebrate National Donate Life Month, MTI is honoring patients who are celebrating one year post-organ transplant surgery. Previous transplant recipients will also share their stories of how transplantation has impacted their lives in the hopes of promoting awareness on the importance of becoming an organ donor.

MTI is one of the most comprehensive programs and the third largest in the nation with surgeons performing more than 450 transplants each year. It is also the only center in South Florida that performs all organ transplants for both adult and pediatric patients.

More than 100 attendees, including former patients, doctors, and transplant staff, are expected at the dinner.

The Guest Speakers/ Stories

As the daughter of former Miami Dolphins cornerback Sam Madison, Jr., Kennedy Madison has always been an active young woman. During one of her gymnastics practices, her coach noticed that her ankles were swollen, and as other symptoms presented, her parents – Sam and Saskia – received the news that she was in renal failure.

“To know Kennedy and to know our family, it was just shocking,” said Saskia. “I did not say this to her, but my concern was is my child going to live?”

The Madison family was given the option to use a living donor to find a new kidney for Kennedy, and that donor turned out to be closer than they imagined. That compatible donor turned out to be her father.

“To be able to watch Kennedy over six plus months go through dialysis and being the one to give her the shots on a consistent basis, it was a relief for me to be able to have her be as normal as possible,” said Sam. “After having 12 to 13 surgeries after playing in the NFL, this was another one that I was like, ‘ok, I’m ready to go – when do we do it’?”

Kennedy underwent a successful kidney transplant in 2016 at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

When Ralph Zayas Jr., was a young man, he joined the Navy and fought hard for his country not knowing that years later he’d be the one that needed to be saved. After getting his tuberculin (TB) shot, doctors determined he had idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a type of chronic lung disease that results in scarring of the lungs and whose cause is unknown. Zayas would need a double lung transplant.

“I was riding my bike 10 miles a day and was really strong,” said Zayas. “It was really shocking when I heard that I had this disease and that the only cure was transplant.”

The successful surgery took place on October 11, 2016, at Jackson. Zayas has since returned to his photography hobby and spending time with his family. He wants to advocate for organ donation and plans to educate the Hispanic community on the resources available and share his transplant experience with others who may be going through the same situation.

“Words may be carried by the wind but my gratitude to the transplant team will be always in my heart,” said Zayas. “It is extremely important to also remember that without donors this surgery would not have been possible. I am grateful to the donor and family for giving me an opportunity to have a second chance at life.”


April 19, 2018, 5:00 p.m.- 7:00 p.m.


Jackson Memorial Hospital
Ira Clark Diagnostic Treatment Center, room 259
1080 N.W. 19th Street
Miami, FL 33136

Editor's Note:

Media can park at Ryder Trauma
Ralph Zayas Jr. and fiancée speak Spanish.

Jackson Health System

1611 N.W. 12th Avenue Miami, FL 33136