A tiny heart: One baby’s death gives life to another

04/15/2014 4:13 PM

04/15/2014 11:00 PM

Simon Alexander Garcia lived only one brief hour. But somewhere a little girl’s heart is beating today because of him.

Kim Whitworth and her husband, Michael Garcia, were devastated to learn at their 20-week ultrasound examination last year that their first child’s lungs and bladder were developing abnormally. Though they knew he would not survive, the Fort Worth couple chose to continue the pregnancy. Simon was born just before midnight June 28 at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, two weeks ahead of his expected due date.

“He had so much hair it was hard to believe,” said Whitworth, 21. “Everyone was amazed at how beautiful he was.”

Not long after Simon took his final breath, his parents were asked whether they would consider donating his heart valves to possibly help other children in need.

“My husband and I said ‘yes.’ We didn’t hesitate,” Whitworth said.

It wasn’t until last week that Whitworth and Garcia learned that one of Simon’s heart valves went to a little girl at a Dallas hospital in February.

“When I found out, I was overjoyed. I broke down in tears,” said Garcia, 22. “He died for a purpose. I knew he was going to help someone out. I was overwhelmed by the love God has.”

Simon’s family shared their story this week during a ceremony at the hospital aimed at raising awareness of the critical need across the state and country for organ and tissue donors. April is National Donate Life Month. Since 2010, the hospital has annually recognized donors such as Simon and recipients by adding their names to the Wall of Life.

“There are a lot of people who have lost a loved one tragically. Everyone has their own way of dealing with it,” said Whitworth, who encouraged people to consider organ donation. “But I think if you can do it, do it. It gives you hope that maybe your loved one can live on in someone else.”

Across Texas, nearly 12,000 men, women and children await a potentially lifesaving organ transplant, said Laura Frnka-Davis, spokeswoman for the Houston-based LifeGift, a nonprofit organ procurement group. That doesn’t count the thousands of others whose lives could be improved through transplants of tissue including skin, tendons, bone and corneas, she said.

“Across the country every day 75 people are saved through the gift of life, through transplantation,” Frnka-Davis said.

Though 5.26 million people have already signed up for the Donate Life Texas Registry, just 1 to 2 percent of them will go on to become organ donors because of either how they die or the organ match for someone in need, she said.

“We continue to push people to become registered donors,” Frnka-Davis said.

Donors can help as many as eight people through organ donation and can help improve the lives of 50 people or more through tissue donation, according to LifeGift. Donor families are never billed for expenses related to organ or tissue donations, said Dr. Tariq Khan, the medical director of Harris Methodist Hospital’s kidney transplant program.

About 1,800 children nationwide are among the 120,000 people waiting for an organ transplant, according to Donate Life America. Last year, 139 organ donors across the country were younger than 1, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Statistics on infant tissue donors were not available.

Whitworth said she hopes that one day she can meet the little girl whose life Simon touched.

“I would absolutely love that,” she said.

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