by JULIE HA
Sixteen-month-old Olive Kang, the subject of a donor campaign championed by her aunt, actress Moon Bloodgood, passed away early Saturday morning, according to her family.
Olive had led a valiant fight against an extremely rare congenital heart defect, which had her in and out of hospitals for much of her young life. She urgently needed a heart and lung transplant, and Bloodgood, cousin to Olive’s father Johnny Kang, reached out to the public about two weeks ago with a YouTube video that talked about her niece’s cause, as well as the larger, ongoing need for organ and tissue donation for children.
“Nobody wants to talk about organ donation—it’s gruesome, it’s terrifying,” said Bloodgood at that time. “It’s not something we want to even think about. At the same time, this child is dying, and other children are dying, so we have to talk about it.”
Olive had been on the transplant list at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford in Palo Alto since last April, and though she had the highest, most critical status, her parents knew finding a match would be very difficult. She would need a heart and lung from a child of roughly the same height and weight, plus the same blood type and other match specifications. As she waited for the transplant, Olive’s condition worsened, with her pulmonary veins closing up and her lungs dying. She got an infection in late January, which caused her hospitalization, and her condition gradually deteriorated.
On their Facebook page, Olive’s parents said that they were able to hold their brave little girl one last time “before her spirit left her weak body” and that she passed away peacefully at about 4 a.m. Saturday.
“Words can’t describe the excruciating pain we feel in our hearts. We loved every moment of being Olive’s parents,” wrote Johnny and Robin Kang, residents of Orange County, California. “We would do it all over again just to see her and hold her. We are thankful that God has chosen us to be Olive’s parents. She was a perfect baby even in her imperfect body. We know this is not the end, it is the beginning of an eternity. We look forward to seeing Olive in heaven someday. We continue to seek for peace by giving thanks to God for Olive and all of you for cheering us on in our journey.”
When KoreAm spoke with Robin two weeks ago, she described her daughter as a feisty, happy little girl who, despite having to contend with the discomfort of feeding and oxygen tubes, still managed to smile and laugh. When the music would come on, she’d always dance, said Robin. Her favorite song? “All About the Bass,” the mother answered. “That’s her song.”
At the time, Robin said she not only wanted to bring awareness to her own daughter’s cause, but also to send a larger message about the urgent need for organ donations for children—something most people don’t really think about. “I just want to bring awareness, so that a child like Olive can have a chance at life,” said Robin. “Even if Olive doesn’t get her transplant, if we get people starting to think about donating, sharing organs, whether living or deceased, that would be amazing.”
She repeated, “That would be amazing.”
In addition to her parents, Olive is survived by her older brother Riley and many other relatives.
Featured image courtesy of the Kang Family.
To learn more about organ, blood and tissue donation, visit OrganDonor.gov.