About Us

A Girl Came From Japan

Kathy Baum - Volunteer Coordinator

In March 1997, a picture of a girl in a local Japanese newspaper drew my attention:

An eight year old girl from Tokyo would come to the UCLA Medical Center for a heart transplant having raised $1million.

Back then, Japan hadn't recognized brain death as legal death yet, and this was a hot issue at the diet (government). Maybe because of this reason, even the US media picked up her story and radio reported about her condition every day.

Behind of this scene, there were about 10 volunteers, who responded to a web ad made by the family's friend, giving tireless support for the family who didn't speak English; from cooking rice to interpretation day and night.

Even so, as my heart was still troubled listening to the radio telling her deterioration, my husband George and I attempted to visit the hospital with letters.

At the door of ICU, however, "The parents are stepping out right now," said a nurse and we left the hospital reluctantly just passing the letters to the family.

The next morning, the radio in the car announced that she'd passed away with excessive bleeding. She traveled thousands of miles to the US with the last hope of an organ transplant, but she could not make it. It was Apr. 13th, 1997.

Grain Fell and Produced More Grain

Several months later, while Japan passed an organ transplant law and admitted brain death as legal death only for organ transplant purpose (it was as if her death had spoken to the politicians' hearts), the letter left to the girl and the family led us to meet the girl's parents. As they invited us to help another Japanese transplant family with a dying daughter visiting UCLA, a fallen grain of wheat was subtly beginning to produce a new grain.

Patients kept coming to UCLA one after another even after Japan passed the organ transplant law, but volunteers who gathered first to help the girl were gone as the time went by. Noticing the needs were still great, George, who was an adult school ESL teacher, asked students to volunteer. His advance students at first hesitated, being afraid of making mistakes or causing some trouble to their families or companies, and then George said to them:

"Why are you studying English? You want to take, but how about giving? This is a time to use the English you've learned. Go and give!"

The encouraged students rose up and a new group of volunteers were formed. We neither had funds nor even a name; when one left, a new person was given by word-of-mouth. We kept giving support and in 2008, after more than 10 years had gone by, we became a non-profit organization, " Grain Of Wheat Inc.", hoping to give better service and more support to more people in need.