On Friday, the staff at Salinas Valley Memorial got a very personal reminder of how organ donation helps save lives. To mark National Blue and Green Day, which is a day designated to spread awareness about organ, eye and tissue donation and transplantation, Jess and Theresa Chairez visited the Hospital’s cafeteria for a celebration. Mr. Chairez shared his personal story of heart break and the gift of life.

It was Thanksgiving Day of the year 2000 and Chairez and his wife were waiting for their son Joseph to get off work so they could enjoy Thanksgiving dinner together. Joseph was 24 years old and a police officer in Sacramento. He was a rookie cop, only 5 1/2 months in the job. Later that day, the phone rang. Theresa answered and seconds later she yelled, “No! Not Joe!” The police chief had called to tell them their son had collapsed and had been taken to the hospital.

At the UC Davis Medical Center, physicians told Jess and Theresa their son Joseph had suffered a brain aneurism. The gut wrenching news came later, when physicians confirmed their son would not recuperate.

Mr. Chairez says after hearing the devastating news, he prayed, asking God for help. He says it was in those moments that God spoke to him telling him he needed to donate his son’s organs. Chairez says he had once told Joseph he did not want him to register as an organ donor, but at that moment in his son’s hospital room he knew that was the right thing to do. He says that it is what his son would have wanted. Moments later, when a physician asked him if he would be willing to donate Joseph’s organs without hesitation he answered “Yes.”

After making that decision, Chairez put his head to Joseph’s chest and listed to his beating heart. Soon after, Joseph died. Approximately five years later, Chairez and his wife met the man who has their son’s heart. When they met, they got to put their heads to his chest, and once again listen to their son’s beating heart.

Joseph’s heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas and intestines were donated to four people. The Chairez’ have met two of those individuals. Seventeen years after Joseph’s sudden death, they continue to take comfort in the gift of life Joe gave others. Chairez says that when his son passed away, “God gave him a second chance at life.” Now, he dedicates his life to volunteering, to making quilts for the families of fallen police officers, and most importantly traveling throughout the country sharing his son’s story and the importance of organ donation.

Jess and Theresa Chairez thanked the hospital for their commitment in joining in that education effort. Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System has long supported education around organ donation and has achieved Platinum Level with Donor Network West for its community outreach efforts.