Campus: CSU Los Angeles -- June 10, 2004

Cal State L.A. Changes Career Path for Student with Kidney Transplant

Representing one of many interesting, strong and dedicated students at Cal State L.A., Noel Zabala (Bell resident)—who overcame a kidney disorder, known as IgA nephropathy—will be receiving his bachelor’s degree in communication studies from Cal State L.A. on Saturday, June 12.

Diagnosed with a kidney failure in 1999 while working at FedEx as a full-time manager, Noel had to take time off from his job for about a year to receive kidney dialysis, which he explains as a “miserable” experience. Evidently, in order to overcome this autoimmune disease, he needed a kidney transplant from a family member. His twin brother, who was attending college in the Philippines at the time, had to travel to the U.S. in order to donate his kidney. Coincidentally, the doctor who operated on Noel was himself a twin—one of the Mendez brothers who specialize in kidney transplants at St. Vincent Hospital.

After a successful transplant and a “second chance” in life, Noel decided to change his career path by going back to school. In 2002, he enrolled at Cal State L.A. to pursue his interest in film and video production. He says, “I chose Cal State L.A. based on my friend’s high recommendation of the University’s film program, and it’s close to home.”

Even with his constant need for testing and medication due to health reasons, Noel resumed working at FedEx but as a part-time manager while studying diligently for his classes at Cal State L.A. Noel, a Dean’s List student, indicated that he found a renewed appreciation for the opportunity to learn and to further himself. During his spare time, he even volunteered at the Queen of Angels Hospital.

As a film student at Cal State L.A., Noel produced a documentary film about kidney dialysis, using his own doctors. The film project was titled “Life on Dialysis.”

Noel, who has completed several student film projects and is currently a cinematographer in a motion picture project headed by CSULA Professor Blake Jackson, notes that he feels a great sense of accomplishment being able to graduate with a college degree this spring. He says he can’t imagine all that he would have missed, if he hadn’t taken the first step to apply to Cal State L.A.

Currently, he is interning at KPFK radio station in the archives department. Upon graduation, he will continue to work part-time at FedEx while seeking internship openings in the film industry—hoping to fulfill his dream of one day becoming a special effects director for such films as The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings.

Contact: Margie Yu, (323) 343-3047

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