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West Sacramento News-Ledger

April is National Donate Life Month

Apr 24, 2024 12:00PM ● By Jess Chairez

WEST SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - April is National Donate Life Month, when organ donor families, transplant recipients, and the entire organ donation community celebrate organ donors and call on everyone to register to donate life. It is a month to honor donor heroes who have given life to others, celebrate the lives that transplant recipients are fortunate to have, pray for those who still wait for a lifesaving organ, and encourage everyone to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor.

My family never imagined being part of this community when we faced the death of my beloved son, Joe.

No matter what I was doing – working in the yard, building something – Joe was always right there by my side. He was about to graduate from the Sacramento Police Academy, which just made me as proud as a peacock. Just two weeks before he graduated, Joe told me that, if the unthinkable happened to him and he died while carrying out his duties in law enforcement, he wanted to donate his organs.

As much as I loved my son, I told him I could not allow that. My family wasn’t familiar with organ donation at that time. I just wasn’t comfortable with it.

Two weeks later, Joe suddenly collapsed on the job. My wife, Teresa, and I got the call that changes a parent’s life forever: our Joe had suffered a brain aneurysm and had died.

A day later, Tim, an incredibly compassionate staff member with Sierra Donor Services, our local organ procurement organization (OPO) asked us if we wanted to donate Joe’s organs. My mind flashed back to our conversation just days before. Initially, I said no, but as a man of faith, I asked God what I should do. He gave me an answer: I would honor my son by honoring his wishes and supporting him in leaving a lifesaving legacy.

I will never forget Teresa mouthing “Thank you” to me as she shook from head to toe, tears streaming down her face. All along, she had known what Joe wanted. I am happy that I figured it out in time for him to save lives.

I have also never been happier in my life than to have had that change of heart. Through the work of Sierra Donor Services, Joe’s heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and pancreas saved the lives of five people. Teresa always says that’s what life is for: to help others.

We lost Joe over 20 years ago, and I’ve spent the time since then sharing Joe’s story. This Donate Life Month, I encourage everyone to register as an organ donor. More than 20,000 Californians are waiting today for the same type of gift that Joe gave to five people. Over 79% of those people waiting are people of color.

My family has found support and solace because in Joe’s death, he saved lives. It has given us peace. My family has experienced that first-hand. Please think about how you can help someone who really needs your help.

Please visit to register as an organ donor today.

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