Friend provides gift of life

  • Olivia Lemen, right, donated part of her liver to save Amy Baghdadi, who was suffering from cancer, in February.

When four generations of Weitzenbergs gather in Santa Rosa for their annual Mother's Day brunch, they usually raise a glass in celebration of family.

Today, they likely will honor friendship. And good health. And Olivia Lemen.

It was Lemen, a 32-year-old recreation manager for the city of Calistoga, who answered the call when a member of the Weitzenberg clan was desperately ill.

In the hour of Amy Weitzenberg Baghdadi's greatest need, Lemen did what she said felt natural, like the lesson most kids learn in kindergarten but sometimes learn to forget. Olivia Lemen shared.

Amy Weitzenberg Baghdadi and Olivia Roberts Lemen are not sisters or cousins or even classmates.

Six years separate their graduations from Santa Rosa High School, and they know each other mainly as a result of their mothers' close friendship after nearly two decades of teaching together at Monroe Elementary School in Santa Rosa.

The daughters hit it off six years ago when Lynn Weitzenberg spearheaded a mother-daughter team to participate in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in San Francisco in celebration of her own win over cancer.

Even though their mothers were the closest of friends, the daughters drifted back into their own busy lives — Lemen with her husband, Andrew, in Napa and Baghdadi with her young family in San Francisco.

Lemen learned of Baghdadi's grim cancer diagnosis last September. That was followed by updates about grueling but unsuccessful chemotherapy.

She knew the 39-year-old mother of two, Tarik, 7, and Aiya, 5, desperately needed a new liver, and she also knew that cancer was likely to kill Baghdadi before a cadaver donation would become available.

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