The donor, Briana Rodriguez, lost her life in 2013 following a tragic ATV accident. Her mother, grandmother and extended family gathered nearly a decade later to meet the woman who received her heart, 21-year-old Julia.
When Julia arrived in Arizona to meet Briana's family, her mother, Reyna Valenzuela, got a chance to listen to her late daughter’s heartbeat.
"Healthy heart, it is a healthy heart for sure," Briana's mom said, listening to her heart now beating inside Julia's chest.
"Losing your son or daughter is the hardest thing that any parent has to go through," Reyna said. She carries the pain of the loss with her every day.
Julia talks about Briana's lasting impact on her youth, saying the donation gave her a normal childhood.
"We got a call saying there is someone in Arizona, and it could be a match for you, and it means you could go home and go to eighth grade and do all the normal things a teenager does and there was a lot of hope then that things would get better," Julia said.
Reyna's daughter signed up to be an organ donor when she got her learner's permit just a month before her death. That decision changed the lives of many, including the life of Robert Tennyson, who received her kidney.
Robert spent seven years on dialysis when he got a call in April 2013, notifying him that a kidney was ready for him.
"What Briana did for me was, she put me back together. It really did. You look at everything like it's brand new because it is. Every day is a gift, nobody's promised tomorrow and through unfortunate circumstances, I still get to be here," Robert said.
Julia reflects on the life of Briana.
"Such a giving act in her last days, and it is crazy to think that she is not here, but I am so thankful for all of that," Julia said.
Both Julia and Robert say they plan to live out the rest of their days helping others and making Brianna proud.
How? Julia says, "Hoping to go into the medical field and help other people going through these things." Robert says, "The best and only way that I know how to show what it meant to me is to go about living my life the best that I can, to do good try to influence others as best I can."
Learn more about organ donation in Arizona here: https://www.donatelifeaz.org/?lang=en
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