HOUSTON - 25-year-old Jordan Santiago was known for living life to the fullest, from his world travels to his generosity in volunteering.
Now his legacy lives on through others, including Ernest Wright in Montgomery County.
"Thank God I'm here still for my wife, my children, and my grandsons," says an appreciative Ernest.
He and his wife, Bridget, can't be more thankful for Jordan's beautiful gift of a heart.
Ernest was suffering from heart failure and was clinging to life at Memorial Hermann. He was in desperate need of the perfect match.
"When he told me, I was speechless thinking, 'You got a heart?'" questioned his wife Bridget.
Ernest did get that life-saving gift of a heart from Jordan.
Jordan Santiago was killed in Dallas by a hit-and-run driver in 2020. As a registered organ donor, he changed and saved the lives of 75 people.
On September 25, 2020, Andrew and Heather Santiago's beloved son was walking across the street in Dallas when a vehicle hit and killed him.
"We have strong faith and that is what has kept us going," states Andrew.
The loss of their son has sparked nagging pain, yet peace washes over them knowing he wanted to be an organ donor.
"It definitely does, knowing that it was something he wanted to do. He put it on his driver's license. That was typical Jordan, says Heather. "To know he lives on in other people, so they can fulfill their purpose, so out of the ashes comes beauty."
The Santiagos say since Jordan was a little boy, he always found ways to add joy to others' lives. Even after death, he is still doing that.
The moment they got to hear their son's heart beating in Ernest's chest took their breath away.
"It was a moment of a lot of tears, but tears of joy. And I have to say, we have no regrets about meeting the family and the recipient, expressing his gratitude for life was just incredible," says Andrew.
Heather Santiago listens to her son Jordan's donated heart beating in Ernest Wright's chest.
"It was hard for me because I know what it sounded like for it to be her child's heart, so I don't know what she felt, but for me, it was a blessing," explains Ernest.
"Knowing that his heart is still beating, even if it's in somebody else. We miss him dearly every day, but knowing that his heart is in somebody else, and they get to live and control their purpose now," says Heather.
Ernest is ready to fulfill his purpose. For now, that means taking good care of himself, making sure he gets plenty of exercise and never misses his medications, including dozens of anti-rejection pills every day.
He can't be more thankful for the Santiagos and all his doctors and entire medical team at Memorial Hermann who pulled off his successful surgery.
"I can't thank them enough, and they made me feel like, 'Don't worry, I got ya," says a smiling Ernest.
Yes, they did, and they still do! He is closely monitored at Memorial Hermann.
Ernest Wright (R) was desperate for a perfect heart match, after suffering from heart failure and clinging to life at Memorial Hermann.
For more information on being a donor, click here.