Family of Organ Donor Julio Garcia Meets Five Transplant Recipients Whose Lives Were Saved

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Five transplant recipients, including a two-year-old boy who received a liver segment, meets the family of Julio Garcia who died suddenly from a brain hemorrhage at the age of 38.

Mirtala (wearing a Donate Life green bracelet) with Julio's transplant recipients who attended the meeting. From left: Jo Ann Laskaris (liver segment); Edward Santos (kidney); Thomas Ginz (lungs); Braylen Benitez (liver segment), and Sebastiao Laurenco (heart).

I hope that the generosity of Julio and the Garcia family will prompt everyone 18 and over to sign up on the New York State Donate Life Registry.

Five transplant recipients, including a two-year-old boy who received a liver segment, meets the family of Julio Garcia who died suddenly from a brain hemorrhage at the age of 38.

When Julio Garcia died suddenly from a brain hemorrhage at the age of 38 in March 2010, his organs saved seven people. He also donated his corneas.

Fourteen months later, Julio's wife, her children and other family members, got to meet five recipients who received Julio's organs. One of them is a two-year-old boy.

As word gets out about the May 11 meeting in Manhattan, Elaine Berg, president and CEO of the New York Organ Donor Network, says she hopes more New Yorkers will realize there are not enough people like Julio Garcia and his family.

Berg says the emotional meeting between Julio's wife, Mirtala, and some of her husband's recipients, will hopefully inspire more New Yorkers to decide to become organ donors.

"Nearly 8,000 people need organ transplants in the greater New York metropolitan area," says Berg. "And yet last year, there were just 242 deceased organ donors in the region. Worse still, only 16 percent of New Yorkers have signed the state's organ donor registry, compared with an average of 40 percent nationwide."

Among the family members with Mirtala at the meeting were Julio's son Kevin Lemus, 18, as well as their children Jeffrey (11) and Brianna (5).

A highlight of the emotional meeting, where many tears were shed, was when Mirtala met Sebastiao Lourenco who received Julio's heart. They hugged for what felt like the longest time, and Mirtala placed her hand on Sebastiao's heart --- to feel Julio's heart still beating strongly.

Like Mirtala, Julio was born in Guatemala. Julio and Mirtala were married for 11 years. He was a craftsman and a carpenter. He also was a pastor at a church and loved to preach the Bible.

Another bittersweet meeting was when Mirtala met two-year-old Braylen Benitez who received a liver segment from Julio. Like any healthy kid his age, Braylen was eager to run around and explore the New York Organ Donor Network's conference room.

The other recipients in attendance were Edward Santos, a member of the Garcia's family church, who received a kidney; Thomas Ginz, Julio's lung recipient, and Jo Ann Laskaris, who received the right segment of Julio's liver.

Dr. Herbert Pardes, the president and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System, addressed the attendees. Julio's donation and some of the transplants took place at hospitals led by Dr. Pardes. Representatives from Yale-New Haven Hospital and Mount Sinai Medical Center, where the other transplants took place, were also present.

The Donor Network's Elaine Berg, in summing up how she envisages the meeting will impact New Yorkers, said: "I hope that the generosity of Julio and the Garcia family will prompt everyone 18 and over to sign up on the New York State Donate Life Registry."

Donor registry enrollment can be completed when individuals apply for or renew their driver's licenses at New York Department of Motor Vehicles offices or on the New York Organ Donor Network's website.

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Martin Woolf
New York Organ Donor Network
(646) 291-4460
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