Before Derby 137, there's already a winner

Kathy Ritvo
Kathy Ritvo
David Nicholson
David Nicholson

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - All eyes will be on the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs in just a couple of weeks, however, local Kentucky officials also hope that all eyes will be on a major cause that's saving lives.

As the horses prepare to shoot out to race another Kentucky Derby, a trainer is fortunate to see it.

"I come from a racing family - trainers and jockeys - and I've always loved horses, loved to train them and just to be around them," said Kathy Ritvo.

But despite her love for horses, the 41-year-old Ritvo didn't know if she'd see another race.

"I had been sick for about 10 years, and it just kept getting worse," Ritvo said, who had a heart condition. "I had and they tried medications for a number of years and it never got any better and so it got to a point where I needed a heart transplant."

She went on a waiting list. While it took six months, it felt like a lifetime.

"Sometimes I was afraid to go to sleep. that was probably the hardest time when it got to the night," she said.

But this trainer of the horse Mucho Macho Man is a macho woman; making it through the surgery, and the recovery.

"I didn't expect myself to feel as healthy as I do. I always expected to have more problems, but I'm doing really well," Ritvo said.

She had the surgery in 2008, and can do virtually everything she used to do, and only feels a little more sensitive to the cold.

It's a story of victory she's sharing, and hopes the Derby can boost awareness and donor registrations.

"We need organ donors because it saves lives. my kids have their mothers and my mother has her daughter and my husband has his wife, I mean its so important to keep our family together," Ritvo said.

It's a life lesson also echoed in the halls of justice.

"A sad tragedy happened with one of the circuit clerks losing a cousin," said Jefferson County Circuit Court Clerk David Nicholson.

That prompted the creation of the "Kentucky Circuit Court Clerks Trust for Life" in 1992 across the Commonwealth.

"We just celebrated this last week our one millionth person on the registry," Nicholson said.

With Ritvo as their spokesperson, they hope her story will inspire others to sign more to give the gift of life.

"My heart pours out to the people that are waiting and I know they can do they just need to hang on," Ritvo said.

You can help by opting to be an ogan donor when you perform any Kentucky driver's license transaction, or go to

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