The Flood sisters help patients expedite that waiting period by providing them with a list of potential donors, helping them choose the right hospital and referring them to organizations that can assist with medical expenses. Once matched with a living donor, a patient contacts his or her hospital, and the transplant occurs once the donor has been medically cleared by a series of tests.
Patients who need the organs of a deceased individual must also wait on the list, as United Network for Organ Sharing determines where to allocate these organs.
But patients can take the initiative to find a family with a terminally ill loved one and have them consent to donate that person's organs after he or she has died -- an option the Flood sisters are exploring for Pearce. Many people are unaware of that option, so it doesn't happen often.
"We hope that Molly's story is the first step toward changing how families can choose where their loved one's organs are allocated," Jennifer Flood said. "It is such a confidential process when it doesn't have to be. This new procedure can make a family or individual feel empowered and not directed to a system. It makes the donation process more personable."
Pearce's mother describes her daughter as a bright, inquisitive young woman whose resilience has always belied her physical condition.
"She has a tremendous love for animals -- she's shown horses and done a lot of work at shelters," Melisa Pearce said. "She has never seen herself as weak -- she has always been the person who fights for the underdog."
Molly Pearce's boyfriend of four years, Corey Eaker, stayed with her in the hospital for a month over the holidays. A geography major in his final semester at California State University, Northridge, he met Pearce when they were both enrolled at Santa Monica College.
"It was tough to be there and see everything that she was going through," he said. "We're pretty positive, but we always look at the other side a bit and think, 'What if?' And then we use each other to remind ourselves that we can't think about that and to keep a positive outlook."
Pearce said the support from her family, as well from as strangers who have written to her after reading her story, has been overwhelming.
"I'm hopeful," she said. "We did it once, and I'm determined to do it again."