The ultimate gift: Mother donated kidney to save daughter’s life, now both will participate in Rose Parade

Tiffany Ladd and her family knew something was terribly wrong shortly after she gave birth to her daughter, Kalyn. What should have been a happy time for the family was soon filled with concern and medical tests, according to Suzanne Wheeler, Tiffany’s mother and Kalyn’s grandmother.


Wheeler said she remembers bringing home baby Kalyn to be cared for by her and husband David Wheeler while their son-in-law, Jeremy Ladd, focused on Tiffany’s care.

That time of uncertainty in 2006 culminated in a shocking diagnosis of end-stage renal failure for Ladd, who was 21 when she had Kalyn.

“We were just traumatized,” Wheeler said.

After Tiffany’s diagnosis was confirmed, Wheeler said she didn’t hesitate to offer one of her kidneys to give her daughter a chance to live a healthy life.

Now 34 years old, Tiffany is healthy and leading that healthy life due in part to the life-saving kidney donated by Wheeler in March 2006. Wheeler is also living a healthy life, and the partner with Mariner Wealth Advisors recently opened an office in Amarillo.

Now, more than a decade after the surgery, the uplifting mother-daughter survival story has landed the duo in the iconic Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif. Ladd will be riding on the Donate Life float and Wheeler will be walking beside the float along the parade route on New Year’s Day. Organ donors and recipients from across the country will be riding or walking beside the float during the 2018 Rose Parade, which will be televised beginning 10 a.m. central time.

Wheeler said they were chosen because they do volunteering and talk with others about organ donation. Wheeler is being honored by LifeShare of Oklahoma, which helps sponsor the float.

Donate Life is a national organization working to encourage people to register as organ, eye and tissue donors. A focus of the organization is providing education about living donation, according to the Donate Life America website.

Wheeler is one of eight living donors chosen to walk beside the float, while Tiffany — who later received a kidney from her father, according to the Tulsa World — is one of 17 recipients who will be riding on the float, according to

Suzanne Wheeler said that she is not only excited to go to Pasadena, Calif., for the parade and game between the Oklahoma Sooners and Georgia Bulldogs, but also to meet other people who have been in similar situations because organ donation awareness and outreach continues to be a large part of her life.

“There are so many people on waiting lists for organs, especially kidneys,” she said. “You want to be an organ donor for a relative or friend in need so that (their) life can go on as normal.

“It’s such a blessing to be able to give. You see the rewards with the life that has been sustained because you were able to help them.”