Four toddlers died in the fire at the home daycare of Jessica Tata last year, after she left them there alone. The parents of one of those children are getting some comfort this holiday season, knowing their precious angel, is living on through others. A little boy is thriving because of their generous gift of life.
Three-year-old Jacob was on the brink of death last year at this time. His mom, Jasmin, couldn't believe what doctors told her.
"He had a tumor, a cancerous tumor in his liver, and that he could die, if he didn't have a transplant," says Jasmin Tovar.
Jacob's now alive and well to enjoy his baby sister, because the parents of 17-month old Elias Castillo donated his organs, after he lost his life in the fire, last year. "It's been tough, because I met the family (Elias'). We talk a lot. The Grandma says she's really happy with him (Jacob). She brings him gifts and says she's happy that their grandson is now in my kid," says Jasmin.
She says she loves and respects Elias' family. Two other people got a second chance at life because of that little boy.
"A three month old baby took the heart, and a forty year old woman got the kidneys," says Laura Davis from LifeGift. She says it's not unusual for a baby's organs to be shared with an adult.
"It happens more often than you might think. We've had cases where pediatric patients are able to give the gift of life to adult patients quite often. In this case, we gave this recipient both of Elias' kidneys, because of the size difference. When we recover and transplant a heart, we look for a patient about that size. The heart is the only organ where size really makes a difference," explains Davis.
We met up with the family member of another organ recipient. You would probably recognize him as "Clutch", the fun-loving mascot of the Houston Rockets. Robert Boudwin's father received the gift of life... double lungs... from another donor, after being diagnosed with terminal bone disease.
"This past year, things started to really degenerate. He had a case of pneumonia, which further compromised his lungs. On February 2, 2012, I rushed him to the Emergency Room, and he was admitted and immediately put on the lung transplant list, which was a surreal experience. We didn't know what to do as a family, didn't know where this was going," says Boudwin.
It turned out to be a positive experience. Doctors quickly found a match.
"His situation was so dire, he got that lung transplant on February 15. We got a call in the middle of the night. After a six hour surgery, the surgeon saved his life. It was an amazing experience," says Boudwin. He goes on to say, "He's still with us now, which is a gift that I'm very thankful for, especially this time of year, when we're taught to thank what we're thankful for."
Boudwin says he is thrilled that his father will be around to enjoy his identical twin grandsons!
Of course, it's always a bittersweet time, especially for the recipient, like Robert's dad.
"He was very moved by and upset by somebody lost their life and these tragedies happen. Regardless, a miracle can happen as a result in the wake of these tragedies, but he was very moved with it, so he really wants to pay it forward with this family and keep spreading the word about organ donation," says Boudwin. It's a big job to spread the word, but with Robert, or Clutch's, outreach to the public, he's hoping to reduce the list of 12,000 Texans waiting for an organ.
You can sign up to be a donor through the D.P.S. office (when you renew your driver's license) or at Donate Life Texas. Just wanting to be a donor and telling your family you want to donate your organs isn't enough.
"No, it's not good enough. The registry takes the burden off a family. If you're faced with the situation with your family potentially being a donor, you're faced with so many other decisions, and that's one less decision the family doesn't have to bear. It also makes it easier for the staff at LifeGift. We change our approach when we talk to a registered donor, more of an informed approach - by law and obligation, LifeGift is supposed to fulfill that wish," explains Davis.
Davis is thrilled that the numbers are starting to go up on the donor list. In fact, she calls it record breaking! Three million Texans are now on the Donor Registry, but again 12,000 people are still on a waiting list.