Dia de los Muertos ofrendas honor organ donors in South Bay

Zach Fuentes Image
Thursday, November 2, 2023
Dia de los Muertos ofrendas honor organ donors in SJ
More than two dozen organ donors were honored with Dia de los Muertos ofrendas at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- More than two dozen lives were honored with Dia de los Muertos ofrendas at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

The alter honored the lives of those whose organs were donated to save other lives.

One of those donors was Brandon Castellano.

"He was like a big teddy bear," said his mother Sharon, "He loved people, he loved to help people, he loved animals and of course, he loved cars."

In 2006, two weeks shy of his 19th birthday, Brandon was killed in a car accident.

Sharon works at Santa Clara Valley Healthcare in high risk obstetrics.

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"I have had, unfortunately, to tell parents they lost their child," she said, "Never did I ever think I'd be on the other side. But I was."

Organ donation was something Sharon said she and Brandon discussed prior to his death. To this day, his decision to register helps others.

"Brandon helped over 50 people with his donations," Castellano said.

It's a bittersweet story many family members of organ donors have experienced.

Brenda Gutierrez lost her 16-year-old sister Nancy, to suicide.

She says Nancy was an organ donor and has since helped five other people live.

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Last year, her family got the chance to meet the recipient of her lungs.

"She was saying that Nancy has traveled with her to Malaysia, Australia, Fiji, and she no longer has to carry a tank of gas, or oxygen tank with her; she can now get on airplanes," Brenda Guitierrez said of the woman who received her sister Nancy's lungs, "Knowing that Nancy made an impact. It brings us comfort."

Right now though, experts say not enough people are registering as organ donors and it's led to tragic statistics.

"Twenty-two people die a day waiting on an organ transplant," said Dr. Judith Sanchez, a physician with Santa Clara Valley Healthcare.

Castellano has participated in research that looks into why more don't register to donor.

She says one reason is a lack of knowledge.

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Another reason is a misconception that registered donors lives won't be prioritized by doctors in a medical emergency.

"They don't know if you want to be a donor or not," Castellano said of health care providers receiving emergency patients, "Their main goal is to save your life. That is not until later, if there's no possibility of saving your life, do they look at (donor status)."

Through grief, Castellano continues to devote her life to let others know the immense impact they can have as donors.

"What helps me is to put this word out to have people start to think about it, have people start to talk about it, and hopefully be about it so we can help humanity," she said.

For more on registering, visit Donor Network West's website.

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