When I was a child, being home sick from school was not my favorite place to be. But one highlight that came out of the experience was being allowed to watch hours of daytime TV, particularly THE PRICE IS RIGHT. I had childhood dreams of turning 18 (the minimum age to be a contestant), traveling to LA and being picked to “come on down.”
By 8th grade the frequency of these sick days increased dramatically after I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, quickly lost my kidney function and was placed on dialysis. My high school years were spent trying to actually be in school as much as possible – with my friends, keeping up in my classes and participating in extracurricular activities, like drama. Unfortunately, I regularly had to miss days and weeks of school and THE PRICE IS RIGHT, Daytime TV and television in general became regular companions; a distraction from the situation I was in. Every dialysis chair had a personal TV and I have memories of watching everything from the Monday night CBS Comedy line-up (a la MURPHY BROWN & THE NANNY) to the OJ Simpson car chase during the thousands of hours I spent in this position. While I had always been a fan of television, it was during these years that my appreciation grew. It became a connection to the outside world and an escape to a different place.
At age 18 my health dramatically improved after receiving a kidney transplant. My mother was my donor, giving me life not once but twice. As I reclaimed my energy, I quickly found myself living the life of a normal college student. I still loved TV but found I rarely had time to watch it between my Media Studies courses and founding a TV station at my university. I had completely forgotten that I was now of the eligible age to be a contestant on THE PRICE IS RIGHT. Somehow the ability to vote had become a more important milestone.
While in graduate school for my MFA in Television Production, I was accepted into the CBS Page Program. One of my first assignments was helping to coordinate the audience for THE PRICE IS RIGHT. I was going about my job when I walked into Stage 33 at Television City for the first time. As I saw the stage being set-up with games and the empty red chairs, my childhood memories came flooding back to me. I suddenly remembered how I had once held dreams of being the closest bidder to the actual retail price without going over. While I was slightly embarrassed by my youthful imagination, it hit me how much more awesome it was that I was now actually working on the show. I hadn’t even allowed myself to dream of a career in television. As an adolescent, I didn’t even realize that working in television was a possibility for anyone, much less someone with so many obstacles to overcome. And yet somehow, I had found myself doing just that, one step at a time. Small choices and opportunities that led to the path I found myself on and continue to follow.
Even a decade ago, starting my career at CBS, I had no idea that the path would take me to my current position in Comedy Development. I have now been a part of the team that has developed every comedy on our schedule, including that Monday night block that I once watched from a dialysis chair. Now I have the privilege of watching the shows film from the floor of the stage.
In this season of giving, I am reminded of the priceless gifts I have been given: the encouragement of friends and mentors over the years, the talent and wisdom of fine educators and healthcare professionals and, most of all, the opportunity to live a healthy life through the gift of organ donation. I do my best to give back to my community and have become actively involved in many organizations. I serve on the board of a national kidney non-profit, Renal Support Network, and regularly advocate and provide services for fellow patients. I volunteer with The Painted Turtle, a Hole in the Wall Gang camp that gives the normal camping experience to seriously ill children. I find working with children also going through kidney disease, while at the camp and at a prom for teenagers that RSN hosts, especially rewarding. I can sense the hope that simply my presence and experience gives a younger generation (and their parents) to believe that they can have a happy, productive life while living with kidney disease. I have also combined my experience in television to become involved with Donate Life Hollywood, an organization that works with writers, producers and creative executives to ensure organ donation storylines on TV and Film are portrayed accurately and responsibly.
I encourage everyone to find ways to use their unique talents to give back to their community in the New Year. We each hold our own life experience and individual perspective and that is why diversity in our workplace and community is so important. You never know how your example or words of encouragement can impact another.