WATERLOO, Iowa — In many ways, it felt just like a family reunion, with all the emotions of people who haven’t seen each other in a long time.
But the two families in question never met before Friday. In fact, a tragedy brought them together.
“I miss my son so much, but now, I have a daughter,” said Vicky Patino.
Three years ago, Emily Kachulis, of Iowa, was very sick. Doctors told her without both a heart and lung transplant, she would die.
“I went into ICU at St. Mary’s in Rochester, Minnesota, and I waited in there two months,” said Kachulis.
Unbeknown to her, hundreds of miles away, 22-year-old Raul Patino, who grew up in Murrieta, was killed when he fell off a party bus in Minnesota.
Patino’s mother said the decision to donate his organs was an easy one.
“I told my husband, right away in front of the doctors, my son has to live,” Vicky Patino said.
Raul Patino’s organs went to four different people. Three years later, his family, who still lives in Murrieta, got to meet Kachulis for the first time.
“My son still lives, he lives in you,” said Vicky Patino.
They even brought a stethoscope, so Vicky Patino could hear her son’s heartbeat.
Both families say this is a perfect example of the lifesaving importance of organ donation.
There are more than 122,000 people in the country who are waiting for an organ transplant, according to OneLegacy, a non-profit Donate Life group. OneLegacy also says an average of 18 people die every day while waiting for an organ donation.
One person can save up to eight lives by becoming an organ donor, the group said.