SAN ANTONIO, TX —A tragedy for a San Antonio family has had an unexpected silver lining after an inmate died when he ingested meth. He had the opportunity to save four lives.
“My son is a hero, he’s a champion, he went out giving love,” said Lydia Leos, the inmate’s mother.
According to KTXS, 34-year-old Julian Dena was being booked into the county jail when a Bexar County Sheriff deputy noticed Dena ingest an unknown substance on July 27. Dena later admitted the substance was methamphetamine. Dena had been arrested for carrying a gun and having prior felony charges.
Dena was placed on medical observation and was later rushed to Downtown Baptist Medical Center to be treated. He later died at the hospital.
"He was not just a drug abuser, he was not just a man that overdosed, he was a man, he was a good man he was a father," Lydia Leos, Dena’s mother.
By the time Dena’s family was able to visit him, he was already on life support. Dena’s family soon learned he was a registered organ donor since 2011.
“I said no I didn’t know, I guess that means that they do listen to us," said Leos. “When you die, you don’t take nothing with you.”
Dena is survived by his 9-year-old daughter, Natasha Cordero.
"I love him, and I’ll miss him and I’ll always remember him," said Natasha.
Despite the overdose that led to his death the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance (TOSA) was able to harvest Dena’s kidneys, liver, and lungs. This allowed him to save four lives.
“Today it’s already been like four days, somebody is already walking around somewhere after his surgery getting a second chance at life that makes me overjoyed," said Leos.
This is not the first time the organs of a drug user have been suitable for donation according to TOSA.
"We've had individuals who have used drugs and have been able still to donate, we do toxicology testing once we find suitability, we're only going to transplant an organ that is suitable for transplant," said TOSA in a statement.
August is National Minority Donor Awareness Month and Dena’s family is working with TOSA to encourage more to sign up and become a donor because a new patient is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes.
According to TOSA, more than 100,000 women, men, and children are currently waiting for an organ transplant. Nearly 60% of the national transport waiting list come from multicultural communities.
According to TOSA, last year 19,300 donors provided 39,700 organ transplants to patients in need. More than 85,000 corneas are donated each year and provide sight-restoring transplants.
Statistics show that an average of 20 people die every day waiting for an organ donation.
Deceased individuals may be eligible to donate up to 8 lives with their organs, restore eyesight to 2 individuals, and their tissue can heal up to 75 people.