MRMC Administrators pose with Shantel in front of the “Threads of
Life Quilt” dedicated to the memory of those who gave the gift of
life, sight and mobility. Pictured L-R: Kerri Jenkins, CNO; Shantel Garza,
organ recipient; Javier Iruegas, CEO; and Philip Fracica, MD, CMO.
(Mission, TX) She likes to play on her swing set and can watch iCarly cartoons all day.
No one would ever imagine seven-year-old Shantel Garza is anything more
than your typical little girl. However, she has been given the Gift of
Life twice -- once upon birth, and again when she received a liver transplant.
"Shortly after she was born, doctors told us she would not be with
us for more than two years without a liver transplant," says Shantel's
mother, Alicia Garza. "I was heartbroken."
Fortunately, Shantel did not have to wait too long. Six months after being
on the organ donor list, she successfully received a liver transplant.
Others, however, are not so lucky. There are a lot more potential organ
recipients than there are organ donors.
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, the number of people
awaiting transplants nationwide has surpassed 110,541. In South and Central
Texas there are a total of 4,511 patients waiting for a life- savings
organ transplant of which 3,993 need a kidney transplant. “In 2010,
19 families in the Rio Grande Valley consented to organ donation. Organ
shortages make it difficult for everyone on the waiting list to receive
an organ,” says Tricia Barrera, Public Relations Coordinator for
the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance.
The greatest impediment to organ donation is refusal of family consent.
"Consent has actually decreased here in the Valley. Perhaps it's
our culture. Most people are not educated enough on the facts of organ
donation and refuse to 'disturb' the remains of their loved ones,"
says Aissa Garza, Hospital/Donor Services Coordinator for the local chapter
of the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance (TOSA).
Even though a person may be on the National Organ Donor Registry List,
consent must still be obtained by the family. "It is very important
that donors communicate with their families so that their wishes may be
respected after death," added Garza.
Organs are not the only life-saving items on demand. One hundred people
can benefit from one tissue and eye donation. Bonnye Garza, Tissue Services
Site Supervisor for the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center quotes,
"We aim to educate people with these facts and hopefully recruit
them into becoming registered donors."
In an effort to increase awareness about organ donation, TOSA and the South
Texas Blood and Tissue Center are working closely with hospitals such
as Mission Regional Medical Center (MRMC). A Donor Drive was held at the
hospital’s Main Lobby during most of the day. A Symbolic Flag-Raising
Ceremony was held, signifying the number of people awaiting transplants
“We appreciate the tremendous support of Mission Regional Medical
Center. Their administrative leaders have been key supporters of our efforts
and that is why we awarded their organization the TOSA Humanitarian Award,”
said Yolanda Montemayor, TOSA Regional Manager.
The award, which symbolizes a tear drop, represents both the tears of sadness
shed by the donor family over the loss of a loved one, and the tears of
gratitude, thankfulness, appreciation, and recognition from the recipients
who now count the number of days they have left, all because a donor family
valued life enough to share it with others in need.
Philip Fracica, MD, Chief Medical Officer at MRMC, drew on the deeper meaning
of organ donation. “I don’t know if it was intentional, but
I find symbolism in the fact that Donor Awareness Month coincides with
the Easter Season. Organ donation is a way of turning suffering and death
into life and hope and salvation. It is a way of saying no to death and
despair. Even when all is lost, organ donors can turn the tables on death
through an act of kindness and unselfish concern for others.”
"I challenge everyone to become an organ donor," said Alicia
Garza, as she hugged precocious Shantel close to her. “Why would
you not save a life and bring so much joy to another family? We are so
blessed with Shantel. I will always share my story and remind people of
how everyone can be a hero.”
Javier Iruegas, Chief Executive Officer at MRMC offered a unique perspective
on how lucky many of us are to have good health. “How many of you
woke up this morning feeling like a millionaire? Well, today you can ‘donate’
like one, and not worry about draining your bank account. Today you can
donate something even more valuable than money; you can donate ‘life’.
It doesn’t cost you anything and it doesn’t ‘hurt’,
but it saves lives and brings joy to many families.” Iruegas added,
”I encourage everyone to register to be an Organ Donor and give
the gift of life.”
For more information about organ donation, please visit the Donate Life
Texas website at
www.donatelifetexas.org and the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center site at