Nicky Fuchs / Special to the Home News
Friday, Oct. 31, 2008 | midnight
When Sharon Jalene and Dray Gardner got the news their friend needed a kidney transplant, they decided to use their passion for yoga to help.
The two formed Yogis Unite, a grassroots nonprofit group for those involved in yoga, martial arts and other physical art forms.
On Sunday the group hosted the annual Bishnu Ghosh Yoga competition at Town Square Park. The event included massage demonstrations, a yoga-wear fashion show and a small stage for yoga competitors to show off their skills.
While organizers accepted financial donations, the main focus of the event was not to raise money.
"We are here to raise awareness and get the word out," Jalene said. "We probably won't bring in much money today."
Yogis Unite estimated about 300 people stopped to check out the event and booths that day.
George McLaurin watched the competition with a catheter protruding from the left side of his chest. McLaurin was an iron worker, taught karate two days a week and Bikram Yoga five days a week. He and Gardner planned to become certified Bikram instructors.
It was during that process that doctors discovered McLaurin's kidneys were only functioning at 7 percent of capacity.
He had passed the physical required to become a certified instructor, but opted for blood work anyway. He had not had a full physical that included blood work in several years, he said.
McLaurin said the doctors were shocked when the results came in.
"They asked me, 'What do you do?' With 7 percent kidney function, you should be in a wheelchair and on dialysis," he said.
McLaurin credits yoga for preventing him from feeling sick. Even now that he is on dialysis three times a week, he said he does not feel sick.
In fact, he was never sick until after discovering his kidneys were bad. The catheter, located only centimeters from his heart, caused an infection and he has had fevers as high as 104 degrees. He also has nerve damage in his left arm from a stent that was placed for dialysis but then had to be removed.
McLaurin was dealt another blow Oct. 23 when he and about 200 others awaiting kidney transplants received a letter stating University Medical Center's kidney transplant program was being revoked. That was the only kidney transplant program in Southern Nevada.
"Right now we are focusing on George," Jalene said. "He can't work, we need to raise money for him and his family."
Of the event, McLaurin said, "This is beautiful."
During his dialysis treatments, all those involved in Yogis Unite visited him in the hospital. It was then he realized there were people in the hospital next to him who had no visitors.
"I said, 'What can we do to help? We have to bring this to light,'" he said.
McLaurin is still practicing yoga, even with the catheter in his chest, and still volunteers to teach karate from time to time.
"Most people would have quit, but he volunteers to keep teaching," said Stephanie Gordon, head karate instructor at Kifaru Jitsu.
Yogis Unite is working on other service projects, as well. The group has adopted 11 airmen in Iraq and Afghanistan and supports women in recovery from cancer through exercise programs.
The group has also gone international. Yogis Unite for Bumi Sehat is a maternity and family health care program for women and children in the country of Bali.
"We have found that people feel so much better about life in general when they can help someone else," Jalene said.
Diana Cox can be reached at 990-8183 or [email protected].