Losing a family member is always tragic, but when the life lost was plentiful and surrounded by love and happiness, the tragedy becomes especially difficult to overcome.
A family with Del Rio ties went through it, and found much-needed relief in a way they would have never thought of.
Abigail “Abby” de Anda was 17 when she was involved in a car accident in the Texas Valley. That was on Feb. 4, 2006.
Abby and Nedra Rodriguez, both of them Hidalgo High School students, were coming back home after winning a varsity basketball game against Progreso High School. They were in a pickup truck along with three boys when the vehicle overturned.
Nedra died on the spot and Abby was taken to the hospital, where she was put in life support.
Abby’s parents, Luis and Maria Guadalupe “Lupita” de Anda of Hidalgo, Texas, were recently in Del Rio sharing their story.
Luis has close ties to Del Rio. Before moving to the Texas Valley he spent some time here as a teenager with his parents, the late Ret. Air Force Master Sgt. Luis de Anda and mother Gloria de Anda. Luis’ sister, Cynthia de Luna, is also a Del Rioan.
Luis and Lupita talked about their daughter’s accident in an effort to inspire members of the local community to find a way to overcome adversity, and to help others give love.
“It was very difficult when we received that call,” Luis recalls after presenting his daughter’s story before the Rotary Club of Del Rio in April.
Another testimony of life was presented by E.J. Tamez, who spoke of his experience of being a living donor and donating his kidney to his brother.
“Our daughter spent several days in life support, and after a while I knew she was not coming back. I was trying to find a way to tell my wife that we should donate her organs and help other families, but I was afraid of how she’d react,” Luis said.
But then, he said, as he was starting the much-dreaded conversation, Lupita was the one who came up with the idea. She told him that it would be nice to keep parts of her daughter alive by giving the gift of life to other families.
Luis said Abby’s personality was overwhelming, a young girl full of life very active in the community and an overall athlete who enjoyed playing basketball and volleyball.
After they lost their daughter they became advocates for organ donation. They found relief in helping other families receive the gift of life.
According to an update by the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, Abby’s right kidney was donated to a 16-year-old girl, the left kidney went to a 9-year-old girl both of them in Texas. The recipient of Abby’s heart was a 66-year-old Texas woman, mother of three, while Abby’s liver was donated to a 38-year-old man, married and father of three.
Abby’s organs went beyond state lines as well. A 49-year-old Minnesota man received her pancreas, while her lungs helped a 23-year-old man computer systems student in Colorado.
Organ donation has been growing among Americans, but there is still much that can be done.
According to Donate Life America, a nonprofit organization with national partners, there is a need to increase the number of donated organs, eyes and tissues available to save and heal lives through transplantation.
Donate Life encourages the public to register as organ, eye and tissue donors; provides education about living donation; manages the National Donate Life Registry at RegisterMe.org; and develops and executes effective multi-media campaigns to promote donation.
Donations, the nonprofit states on its website, can be directed, which occurs when the donor specifically names the person to which they are donating to; or non-directed, in which the living donor is not related to or known by the recipient, but makes his/her donation purely out of selfless motives.
The match is arranged based on medical compatibility with a patient in need. Some non-directed donors choose never to meet their recipient. In other cases, the donor and recipient may meet at some time, if they both agree, and if the transplant center policy permits it.
“Losing our daughter was very hard for us, but now we know others can be helped, that’s why we decided to talk about it and spread the word,” said Luis.
Luis and Lupita have been speakers in numerous events ever since losing Abby, and became some of the most avid advocates of organ donation.