SAN ANTONIO, Texas
— Jan. 26, 2021 — During an unprecedented year with unique challenges, Texas Organ Sharing Alliance (TOSA), the organ procurement organization that provides organ donation and recovery services for individuals and families in Central and South Texas, announced it was able to help 189 donor heroes provide 594 organ transplants in 2020.
By escalating plans to transfer donors to the new Center for Life (CFL) for organ and tissue recovery at University Hospital, TOSA was able to alleviate the strain on local hospitals focused on caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. In its first year, the CFL cared for 77 organ donors.
“It was such a turbulent year, but we were still able to accomplish our goals,” said TOSA President & CEO Joseph Nespral. “We were able to adapt to our circumstances and still offer families an opportunity to save lives through the power of organ donation. It was a phenomenal year of donor heroes changing lives.”
In a first for TOSA's Southern Region of the Rio Grande Valley, a record 28 individuals became organ donors. Within TOSA's designated service area, which extends from Waco to Brownsville, a record 52 percent of donors made the decision to save lives by being registered organ donors with Donate Life Texas, the state's official registry. Also in 2020, 14 percent of families initiated the organ donation conversation.
For the Lopez family of San Antonio, the tragic and unexpected death of 12-year-old Samantha on Halloween gave the family a chance to save lives.
“Donation for us was turning a negative into a positive,” said Jordan Lopez, Samantha's sister who was also the recipient of her sister's cornea to restore her eyesight. “We are still grieving and at the end of the day I imagine those recipients and how happy and relieved those families are knowing their loved ones are receiving a transplant. That is the most fulfilling part.”
The family of Shannon Balch of Austin says organ donation was simply part of the 47-year-old's dedication to the service of others. Balch made the decision to become an organ donor and shared his decision with his loved ones before his death in February 2020.
“To donate your organs is the ultimate gift,” said Balch's wife Shantel Kaster. “A part of Shannon is still in this world doing good things. It provides us comfort knowing that he gave the gift of life to transplant recipients who can now lead healthy, meaningful lives.”
In Edinburg, the family of Alysha Garza says organ donation has turned into a source of pride despite her tragic death. The 18-year-old was able to save six lives as the first Rio Grande Valley patient transferred to the CFL.
“It's hard to find out your daughter was shot, but like the song says 'Heaven Needed a Hero,'” said her mother Genevieve Vargas. “I know I did the right thing for her by donating her organs. It's changed our lives completely because her father and I and our friends have decided to become organ donors. I'm extremely proud that she was able to save so many people.”
In 2020, the official state registry, Donate Life Texas, also grew. Nearly 220,000 individuals from Central and South Texas were added to the registry.
To learn more about organ donation, TOSA's community initiatives or to register as a life-saving organ donor, visit TOSA1.org.