Valley State Prison for Women employee donates kidney to fellow worker

Laurie Laird and Manuel Graves

By Lt. Gregory Bergersen, VSP PIO


Correctional Counselor III Manuel Graves, classification and parole representative at Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW), received devastating news in May 2010 – he had kidney disease and needed a transplant.

As his condition worsened, Graves needed to  undergo dialysis three days a week, while continuing to work.
After reading about the successful transplant involving Correctional Officer Gaston Benjamin and Correctional Officer Luis Hernandez in March 2008, Associate Warden Ed Blanco suggested asking permission for a CDCR-wide email seeking donors.
The request was granted and the response was overwhelming
For the next three months, the Graves family mailed donor packages to all who requested one.  In total, 35 donor packages were sent in the hope that someone would be a perfect match.
Donor packages arrived from throughout the state – from Pelican Bay State Prison in the north to Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego in the south.
One was the miracle package. Not only was the prospective donor a perfect match, but also a co-worker at VSPW – Correctional Officer Laurie Laird, working as VSPW’s family visiting officer.
Officer Laird agreed to go through the rigorous testing required to determine if she was a qualified donor.
Doctors scheduled the kidney transplant surgery for May 10.
The surgery was a success. Officer Laird was discharged two days later to enjoy her retirement, and Graves was able to leave the hospital shortly thereafter.
Correctional Officer Laird is being recognized today by the Madera Elks Lodge No. 1918 as Officer of the Year for her work with the Strategic Offender Management System (SOMS) visiting and her tremendous gift to her co-worker and fellow peace officer.
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