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Astellas Ride of a Lifetime Contest Sends Five Transplant Recipients to Ride Float in 2009 Rose Parade®

DEERFIELD, IL, October 14, 2008 – Astellas Pharma US, Inc., a leader in the field of transplantation, has announced the winners of the fourth annual Astellas Ride of a Lifetime contest. Launched in April 2008, the Astellas Ride of a Lifetime contest asked organ transplant recipients to write an essay explaining how their transplant experience transformed their life. The five winners of the contest will ride the Donate Life float in the 2009 Rose Parade – one of the most celebrated entertainment events in the world.

“No two transplant recipient stories are alike, but each involves a life-changing journey that starts with one person’s selfless decision to be an organ donor,” said Maribeth Landwehr, Director, Corporate Communications for Astellas. “Astellas created this contest to celebrate how unique each transplant story is and to salute the science of transplantation, the donors and the recipients whose lives have been saved.”

The contest entries were distributed at transplant centers across the country and were also made available online at An independent third-party panel of judges, along with one Astellas representative, selected the five essay winners whose lives were transformed as a result of their organ transplant.

The following five winners will ride on the Donate Life Rose Parade float “Stars of Life,” on January 1, 2009:

Lauren Donkar, 30, liver recipient from Alpharetta, GA

Hours after giving birth to her first child, Donkar entered into a coma, ultimately needing two liver transplants to survive. Since receiving her transplants, Lauren has embraced her role as a mom and has launched a charitable organization to raise money for local transplant organizations.

Debbie Kowatch, 37, kidney and pancreas recipient from Parma, OH

After receiving her kidney and pancreas transplants, Kowatch became an active volunteer in the transplant community, most recently helping to organize a successful organ donor drive at her local community college. Kowatch is currently going to back to school and hopes to become a transplant coordinator nurse.

Andrea Spraggins, 37, kidney and pancreas recipient from Pontiac, MI

At 19 years old, Spraggins’ kidneys began failing, forcing her to drop out of college. After receiving a kidney transplant from her mom, Spraggins finished college and became a transplant social worker at Harper University Hospital, where she counsels others waiting for transplants.

Mandy Trolinger, 31, kidney recipient from Highlands Ranch, CO

Trolinger’s first kidney transplant inspired her to become involved in the nutrition field where she worked as a renal dietician.Years later, Trolinger’s second kidney transplant is allowing her to go back to school to become a physician assistant.

Merle Zuel, 46, heart recipient from Bonner Springs, KS

As an active member of the transplant community, Zuel raises money for transplant social services by organizing an annual benefit concert called MerleJam. He also spends time speaking to pre and post transplant patients. He met his fiancé, Kim, a respiratory therapist, while being evaluated for his transplant.

The Donate Life Rose Parade float will also feature 21 other riders whose lives have been transformed by organ, eye and tissue donation and transplantation. The float is coordinated by OneLegacy in partnership with Astellas and nearly 60 other organizations nationwide. OneLegacy is the nonprofit, federally designated transplant donor network serving the Greater Los Angeles area.

"These patients are a great example of how organ transplantation can allow recipients to impact the lives of others and truly be ‘stars of life’,” said Bryan Stewart, Chairman of the Donate Life Rose Parade Float Committee and Vice President of Communications for OneLegacy. "We want to thank Astellas for their continued support of Donate Life’s Rose Parade float entry, sponsoring five float riders and supporting 1,000 volunteer decorators. We hope people around the country are inspired by the riders’ stories and sign up as organ donors on their state donor registry."

For more information regarding the Astellas Ride of a Lifetime essay contest or to read the winning essays, visit

About Astellas

Astellas is a recognized leader in transplantation and has been committed to the field of immunology for more than 20 years. Dedicated to supporting the advancement of care for patients, Astellas continues to build upon its legacy and leadership in transplantation by investing in ongoing clinical research and new product development. Astellas Pharma US, Inc., located in Deerfield, Illinois, is a US affiliate of Tokyo-based Astellas Pharma Inc. Astellas is a pharmaceutical company dedicated to improving the health of people around the world through the provision of innovative and reliable pharmaceutical products. The organization is committed to becoming a global category leader in focused areas by combining outstanding R&D and marketing capabilities. In the US, Astellas markets products in the areas of Immunology, Urology, Anti-Infectives, Cardiovascular and Dermatology. For more information about Astellas Pharma US, Inc., please visit our Web site at


For further information: Maribeth Landwehr Astellas US LLC (847) 317-8988 Sarah McGee For Astellas (312) 729-4125
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