Family Turns Tragic Death into Blessings

By Cierra Putman
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - It's a special honor for the families willing to give the gift of life and donating organs really can save more than just one life.

That's the message from the Southwest Transplant Alliance.

The group held their annual Celebration of Giving and Living at Odessa Regional Medical Center on Saturday.

In Texas alone, there are nearly 10,000 people waiting, and in need of an organ transplant.

They're of all ages, races and creeds and almost everyday a hurting family is asked to help them.

But on Saturday, one father shared his story of how his family found the strength to turn his son's death into a blessing for multiple people.

"He took two breaths and after that he was gone," Luis Tijerina Sr. said.

After 8 days of hoping his son Luis "Louie" Tijerina Jr. would survive a fatal wreck last year Tijerina and his family finally realized he wasn't going to make it.

"It was just for selfish reasons," Tijerina said. "We didn't want to face the loss."

Somehow the family found the strength to let him live on through others.

"I always knew there was going to be someone to benefit," Tijerina said. "And that's a consolation that gives me the satisfaction to know his life was not in vain."

Luie's organs and tissue gave life to four strangers.

Strangers like Leslie Phillips who received a transplant in 2002.

"It was pretty exciting," Phillips said. "We had been at church when I got a phone call and I stepped out to the foyer to answer the phone call and it was transplant personnel to tell me they think they had found a match. I went back into the church and within a few moments I received another phone call and one of the elders was fixing to tell me to turn my cell phone off. It just so happens that was the call we got to leave."

The diabetic spent 18 months on a donor list before he got that call. The transplant completely changed his life.

"I didn't have a clue how sick I truly was after being a diabetic for 26 years," Phillips said. "And my initial response was I was insensible."

Tijerina hasn't met the people his son saved but hopes to one day.

"I will probably hold on and probably not want to let go because I know part of my son. Part of my son was there with them."

He also prays other families find the strength to follow his example.

"It's a gift of life and there's no way to think about it," he said.

The Southwest Transplant Alliance says anywhere from 50 to 100 people in the Midland and Odessa area need a transplant each year.

They say it's easier on families if individuals make the decision to become a donor ahead of time.

You can either sign up at your local DPS office or online at www.donatelifetexas.org.