Texas Organ Sharing Alliance provides an array of
opportunities to get involved. Whether you have received a
second chance at life, are seeking a way to honor your loved
one or have a deep passion to raise awareness about organ
donation, we have a place for you.

Here, you'll find information on our Friends for Life volunteer group,
corresponding with your donor family and stories on our inspiring volunteers. We look forward to working with you in reaching new goals and saving more lives.

Recipients

Recipient Stories

Victor

Victor, Kidney Recipient

In 2010, Victor, a resident of San Benito, noticed his feet were swelling. Doctors later told him his kidneys had never fully developed and were not properly filtering fluids. Victor immediately began dialysis three times a week and doctors said he needed a kidney transplant to survive. He was added to the transplant waiting list in 2011.

Victor believes the support of his family and friends helped him get through this difficult experience. In Spring 2013 he received a call that there was a donor and he needed to get to Galveston quickly. The transplant was successful and he is back at work at a Rio Grande Valley television station.

"I am so lucky to be alive, and to be given this second chance at life. I'm grateful to the person who donated their kidneys," Victor says, adding that another patient at his transplant center received his donor's second kidney and calls him his "kidney brother".
Shantel

Shantel, Liver Recipient

Shantel was born with biliary atresia, a chronic liver disease, and given only two years to live. Shortly after her diagnosis, Shantel was placed on the transplant waiting list and received her second chance at life after 10 months of waiting. "I thank the donor family who cared enough to give Shantel the gift of life from their special loved one," Shantel's mother Alicia says. "Deep down in my family's heart, we know there's not enough words of gratitude."

Shantel says she hopes to thank them one day in person. The youngest child in a family of six, Shantel says her donor has allowed her to grow, follow her passion for singing and help promote the need for more organ donors.
Pat

Pat, Liver Recipient

Patrick was born with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, a rare liver disease that slowly damages the bile ducts. Sick for much of his life, the condition worsened in his 20s until he finally was listed for a liver transplant.
Hours away from dying, he received a liver on March 24, 2012 from a generous donor. It was then that he made a promise to his donor, God and doctors to help raise awareness for organ donation. Today "Pat's Promise" is an annual event aimed at encouraging others to sign up to the Donate Life Texas registry. Pat continues to live the dream and is grateful to pay his gift forward each day as the Community Service Manager for an Austin television station. His motto: "We need not look far to find those that need our help. That's where you'll find me."
Lemuel

Lemuel, Heart Recipient

Growing up, Lemuel was always the big, healthy kid...one who loved playing sports. But all that changed in what seemed like an instant. In April of 1998, at 28 years old, Lemuel and his fiancé flew to Washington, D.C. in what he expected would be a relaxing vacation. While there he began to come down with symptoms of a cold which doctors diagnosed as bronchitis and prescribed antibiotics. Lemuel quickly recovered but little did he know the virus had damaged his heart.

A short two months later, Lemuel began suffering from headaches and stomach pains brought upon what doctors thought was stress; however an emergency room visit discovered the real culprit: Lemuel's heart was three times the normal size and was pumping only at 10 percent normal capacity; he would die if he did not receive a heart transplant.

In disbelief, Lemuel tried to improve his health but soon was back in the hospital. "I landed back in the ICU with a fatal diagnosis," said Lemuel. "I was told I had about two days to live unless a donor heart was found."

On October 23, 1999, Lemuel received a new heart from a selfless man and his family who realized that in death, life could be given. "It is because of this man and his family that I was able to make my fiancé my wife and raise three children," said Lemuel.

After exchanging letters, Lemuel had the opportunity to meet his donor family, and their first meeting was bittersweet. "An elderly lady approached me and said, 'I know who you are,' I responded, 'I know who you are too, you are my donor's mother.'

She said, 'Yes I am, may I ask you a favor? Can I put my ear to your chest?' I quickly realized this sweet woman just wanted to hear her son's heartbeat," recalled Lemuel.

The memory of him holding her is etched in his mind forever and motivates Lemuel to continue his mission each day to raise awareness for organ donation in honor of his donor and their family.
Mindy

Mindy, Sister to Melissa, who died awaiting transplant

Mindy's story started 15 years ago after the loss of her sister Melissa. Melissa suffered primary biliary cirrhosis, a condition that slowly damages liver tissue. While awaiting a life-saving organ, Melissa became too ill to receive the organ transplant and died due to complications from her illness. This unfortunate event led Mindy to volunteer at TOSA to pay tribute to her sister's legacy.

"My goal is to make people more aware, so they're not afraid. Hopefully they'll want to be selfless and help anyone they can," Mindy said.

For more than 13 years Mindy has been an active voice in the community for organ donation. As a Friends for Life volunteer in Austin, Mindy focuses on debunking the myths and making organ donation a normal discussion point especially within the Hispanic community where more than half of those in need of a life-saving transplant are Hispanic.

"Fifteen years ago there was a total lack of knowledge of what it entailed to be an organ donor," Mindy said. "[Melissa] got the ball rolling for me. Everybody has their calling and I think it's really important to save people from the same kind of tragedy."
Tom

Tom, Heart Recipient

In 1982, Tom was a 22-year-old man committed to making a difference by serving his country in the U.S. Army as part of the first Gulf War, liberating Kuwait City.

In 2005, Tom would face another battle - his own demise. Stationed in Germany as a First Sergeant in an Artillery Battery, Tom was given the grim news he was dying, and his one chance of survival was a heart transplant. "I was being treated for bronchitis, then tests showed I was suffering heart failure," Tom said.

During Thanksgiving 2006, Tom received the precious heart of a young man named Marvin. Expressing his appreciation, Tom wrote to his donor's mom for five years without a response. "Knowing how emotional her decision must have been, I was patient," Tom remarked. "Then there it was! A letter from Rutha."

In 2016, Tom delivered his heart-felt thanks in person. "The selfless gift that Marvin and his mom granted me changed my life. I'm alive! I am happy," he said.
Debra

Debra, Lung Recipient

For Retired Army Nurse Corps Officer Debra, Christmas 2004 was fast approaching and she knew she was on borrowed time - given only three years to live if she didn't receive a lung transplant. "The biggest pain in my heart was to leave my loved ones behind," she said.

Back in 2001, the Lieutenant Colonel was ready to retire when a routine military fitness test led to a diagnosis of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis or hardening of the lung. By 2002, she struggled to breathe, making the need for her transplant urgent. She waited for two months before her Christmas miracle came. On December 23, 2004, Debra received a left lung. "I remember waking up and taking deep breaths," Debra recounted. Her hero, 16-year-old Kevin.

In 2008, Debra met Kevin's parents. As a result of his precious gift, she has watched grandchildren grow, volunteered numerous hours with TOSA and Brooke Army Medical Center, traveled the world, and everyday tells her husband and family how much she loves them.

"This solider has a new mission in life," Debra says, "Kevin's legacy!"
Earl

Earl, Heart Recipient

In 1966, with war raging, joining the military was not for the faint of heart. Yet 17-year-old Earl was ready to serve. "I loved the military, we took care of each other," said Earl.

Upon retirement after serving 24 years, he became a deacon in his church and was enjoying life with his wife Grace. But at 47 years old, a strong and healthy Earl started experiencing complications. "I couldn't breathe, walking across the room was impossible," said Earl. Most would have given up any hope, but Earl pressed forward when presented with the option for a heart transplant. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," he said.

In 1997, his prayers were answered; a young donor named Joe gave Earl a new heart. "I was living for two, receiving Joe's heart changed my whole outlook on life," Earl said. He would later meet Joe's mom whose one desire was to meet the man who had her son's "good heart."

For 17 years, Earl carried Joe's heart while advocating for others on the waiting list and keeping a strict medical regimen. But in 2014, a severe illness attacked his body. Earl was now in his 60s in need of a new heart and a kidney. "I was sad, but thankful to Joe for giving me 17 more wonderful years of life," Earl said.

To his surprise, his doctor said he qualified to be a candidate to receive again. After some time, a family in their time of grief had given him a second chance at life. Earl now lives for three. Simply put, "I am blessed," Earl said.

Writing The Donor Family

Thank you for making the decision to write to your donor family. Many transplant recipients often ask, "How do you say 'Thank You' for the gift of life?" Below are a few helpful tips to keep in mind as you start this special journey.

Keep it Confidential

Please do not share last names, geographic locations, phone numbers, email addresses, social media pages, hospital names, physicians that helped you, etc. Due to TOSA's confidentiality policy, this information will be omitted if included in any letters.

Include a Picture

As long as it does not identify your location or share confidential information. Example: If you are from San Antonio, a picture standing in front of the Alamo would not be the best option.

Faith

Be thoughtful when using spiritual comments since the religion of the donor family is unknown.

Your Story

You may want to briefly explain the circumstances that led to your need for a transplant or how receiving the "gift of life" has been an impact.

Use Simple Language

Be mindful not to include too much medical jargon.

Greeting Cards

Consider sending a greeting card instead and signing off "Thank you for ... Sincerely, First Name"

Talk About Yourself

Include information you are comfortable with sharing. This may include occupation, hobbies, interests, or special things you enjoy. First names are welcome.

Submitting Your Correspondence

1. Place the letter or card in an unsealed envelope.
2. Include a separate sheet of paper with your full name, name of your transplant center, transplant date, and your contact information.
3. Mail to your Transplant Center Coordinator.

How To Volunteer

Join our dynamic team of transplant recipients, donor families, community partners and other donation supporters by becoming a Friends for Life volunteer. Motivated by their heart-felt personal stories, Friends for Life TOSA volunteers share the importance of registering as organ, eye and tissue donors on the state's official registry - Donate Life Texas. Throughout Central and South Texas, you'll find volunteers assisting with special events, giving educational presentations, sharing their experiences, and initiating activities with one goal in mind - to save lives.

As a volunteer you'll receive comprehensive training, supplies to promote donation and an official Donate Life Texas T-shirt. It's easy to join, please complete and submit the Volunteer profile and agreement. Have more questions? Contact us >
CONFIRMATION

THANK YOU!

We have received your application to become a Friends for Life volunteer. The Volunteer Coordinator will add you to our monthly emails and contact you soon regarding volunteer training. Until then feel free to view our current events. >

WELCOME TO FRIENDS FOR LIFE!

Volunteer Agreements

Release of Liability Agreement

In consideration for being permitted to participate as a volunteer in operational, administrative and/or other procedures (collectively, "Activities") at one or more facilities operated by Texas Organ Sharing Alliance (TOSA), and being fully aware of the risks inherent in these Activities, including the risks of physical injury, I, on my behalf and on behalf of my successors, do hereby release, indemnify and hold harmless TOSA, its representatives and all persons involved, my activities from any and all claims whatsoever, including claims for negligence which may arise from any injury, loss or damage, whether to me or to another, relating in any way to my activities.

Confidentiality Agreement

I understand and acknowledge that in my Activities at Texas Organ Sharing Alliance (TOSA), I hereby agree to consider all information confidential and proprietary in conduct of services provided for TOSA and agree not to disclose such information about TOSA, its staff, conversations, and any other information learned either directly or indirectly which is related and/or incidental to the services provided to any person or entity whatsoever outside TOSA.