DENVER CITY, Texas – National Pediatric Transplant Week is a time to focus on bringing an end to a long transplant waitlist for children, which currently is made up of 2,000 names.
Throughout the week, Donate Life America honors donor and recipient families by sharing their stories. The Rodriguez family of Denver City was one of those recognized for a life-saving decision they made after the tragic loss of their baby girl, Maribella.
In February 2021, Maribella told her mother, Kimberly Rodriguez that she was hearing beeping noises in her head. Kimberly was very concerned and rushed her from their home in Denver City to Covenant Children’s Hospital in Lubbock. Doctors originally thought the 4-year-old had a rare neurological disorder called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), but that would not be the case.
“It turns out that it was a seizure and ended up calling for the nurse,” Kimberly said. “They ended up running over there and they decided to take her to the pediatric intensive care unit, and that’s where she had spent a couple of days, and they were her last days.”
Maribella died from an anoxic brain injury after suffering from a seizure back in 2021. Her heartbroken parents had to make a difficult decision on whether to donate her organs.
“Your child is not here and you have to decide right away,” said Francisco Rodriguez, Maribella’s father. “That’s why it was tough.”
Maribella’s parents chose to honor her life by giving life. She ended up saving four people on the organ waiting list. Maribella’s heart went to a 2-year-old girl, her liver went to a 56-year-old man, her right kidney went to a 51-year-old man and her left kidney went to a 34-year-old woman.
“We only need them for our time here on Earth, and if their stories are over, it’s hard, but with giving, you can never go wrong,” Kimberly said.
Kevin Myer is the president and chief executive officer of LifeGift. He said he’s constantly inspired by families, who like the Rodriguezes, can turn a tragic loss into a life-saving gift.
“None of it happens without a ‘yes’ in the most terrible times,” Myer said. “These parents of children who have died or are in the process of dying, have the courage to do that and help others. It’s just so remarkable.”
According to LifeGift, there are currently 2,000 children under the age of 18 across the country waiting for a variety of organ transplants, about 200 of which are from Texas.
Myer said transplants are typically more difficult for children than adults.
“Not only are you matching based on blood group, but you’re also matching on sizes frequently,” Myer said. “Just like adults, most of our children who are waiting for a transplant are waiting for a kidney transplant, so unfortunately, we still lose children who are on the waiting list, because it’s such a matter of time.”
Over two years later, Maribella’s parents said they are forever devastated by the loss of their little girl, but it’s because of her donation that they can find comfort in knowing that her legacy lives on.
“Obviously, her outcome and her story finished so early, but we are so happy that she gets to help other people live, and to keep continuing their story, because it wasn’t their time yet,” Kimberly said.
To learn more about LifeGift or the donation process, visit the LifeGift website.
By registering to be an organ, eye and tissue donor, you can save or improve as many as 75 lives. To register, visit the Donate Life Texas website.