California State Senator Sharon Runner has spent her life in service to others, from founding a private school to serving in the state legislature. At 30, Sharon was diagnosed with scleroderma; by 2006, she had lost nearly 60 percent of her lung capacity and within five years would need a lung transplant. Thanks to an organ donation from a 36-year-old woman, Sharon returned to work in the Senate. She now serves on the Sierra Donor Services Advisory Board and the Legislative committee for the Scleroderma Foundation. "I am grateful daily to God, family, friends and especially to my donor for the life I now lead." she stated.
California State Senator Sharon Runner has spent her life in service to others. In 1977, she and her husband, George, opened a small school as part of their church. Today, Desert Christian Schools is thriving with nearly 1600 students and is one of the state's largest private schools. She still serves on the school's board.
When Sharon was 30, she was diagnosed with C.R.E.S.T., known today as limited Scleroderma. While serving in the State Assembly in the summer of 2006, she began having trouble breathing at higher elevations. Eventually, her doctors realized she had lost nearly 60 percent of her lung capacity, would need to travel with portable oxygen.
During this time, her husband was serving as a state senator. Sharon and George were the first husband and wife to serve in the California Legislature simultaneously. By 2008, her lungs were responding well to treatments and stopped regressing. Still able to work, Sharon was appointed by then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to serve on the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. In Feb. 2011, in stronger health, she ran and was elected to the State Senate.
Later that year her health took a turn for the worse, and a tracheotomy left her unable to speak. In February 2012, her prayers were answered with a double-lung transplant.
"I am so grateful to the family of the 36-year-old woman who determined to donate her lungs," she said. "My son was 35 then, and I was heartbroken to think what losing my own son would have meant."
A few months after the transplant, Sharon returned to work for the final months of her term in the Senate. She now spreads the good news about organ donation and transplants to all she meets. She serves on the Sierra Donor Services Advisory Board and the Legislative Committee for the Scleroderma Foundation.
"I am grateful daily to God, family, friends and especially to my donor for the life I now lead," she stated. "And I am grateful for being a grandma to four wonderful grandchildren."