Organ Transplant Unites Donor's Family, Recipient in Odessa

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - In every organ transplant, there are two sides of the story.

There's the story of one Midland family's heartbreaking loss and the story of another man's saving grace.

Both sides were united on Saturday in Odessa in honor of Loren Gutierrez, who perished in a car accident more than a year ago.

She was a registered organ donor and her donations saved four people across the state, including San Antonio native, Keenan Alexander.

He made the trip out to West Texas to meet Loren's family.

"Hopefully give them a hug," Alexander said. "Just tell them thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you."

"I've thought of it since it happened," Loren's father, Alex Gutierrez, said. "How are the feelings? I'm about to find out."

What followed was an emotional embrace, filled with gratitude from both sides.

From Alexander, who was granted a second chance at life by Loren's pancreas and kidney.

"I had been on dialysis for three years," he said. "Before that, I've been a Type 1 Diabetic since I was probably around 11 or 12-years-old, dealing with diabetes and the kidney failure. I don't do the dialysis anymore. No more insulin injections so it's been a pretty big turnaround."

Loren's father was grateful too, grateful that though he lost his daughter, her donations preserved the lives of so many.

"It was bittersweet, losing my daughter like that but knowing she saved four lives and because she signed up to donate all her tissue, she helped as many as 76 people," Gutierrez said. "You feel good thinking that she's still on this Earth."

This annual Donor Family Celebration, put on by the Southwest Transplant Alliance, brought together a room full of organ donor families and organ recipients.

With more than 113,000 people across the country still waiting for life-saving organs, Loren's family encouraged everyone to follow in her footsteps, saving more lives.

"I know she's smiling down, happy that she helped so many," Gutierrez said.

For Alexander, even something as simple as checking the organ donor box on your driver's license changed his life.

"People that are waiting, check a box and you can save some lives," he said.

Alexander announced he's going to school to be a transplant nurse, completing the celebration of giving and living.