Lubbock man’s tragic death brings miracle gift to brother who needed kidney

Lubbock man’s tragic death brings miracle gift to brother who needed kidney
After David's fatal heart attack, his kidney was a match for his brother, Joe Salas. (Source: KCBD)

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A Hale Center man has received the gift of life, a kidney, from his brother, who suffered a sudden, fatal heart attack, exactly one year after he was put on the transplant list.

“It’s a miracle,” 51-year-old Joe Salas said of his brother’s gift. “It’s all I can say.”

Salas spoke to KCBD Thursday from UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas as he was being discharged. His successful transplant happened early Monday morning, just hours after the organ was harvested from his brother, 57-year-old David, in Lubbock.

“He had what’s called a widowmaker and usually people do not survive that at all,” Joe and David’s sister Irene said. “The fact David even made it pass the Cath lab and was even able to speak with his family was miraculous, per the doctor, the cardiologist. It was shortly after he arrived to the floor that he went into distress and ended up on the ventilator. From that point, he continued to deteriorate.”

Knowing David could not survive the attack and that Joe, a diabetic, was in need of a kidney, David’s wife Lila made the decision to donate his organs. Joe was a match.

“I was very overwhelmed because at the time everything was falling into place,” Joe and David’s sister Diana Sepeda said. “We knew this was the route we needed to go. First, David’s wife, it just popped out of her head to do an organ donation. None of us, being as tired and sad as we were, we didn’t even think of the possibility. She said she was sitting there in peace and quiet and it popped into her head, ‘Let’s try to do the organ donation from David to Joe.’ It was on February 14, exactly one year from Joe being added to the transplant list to the date accepting the donation."

Joe is doing well and will not have to go through dialysis, as long as the kidney functions. He is saddened but grateful for the new life his brother gave him.

“I’ll always have him close to me,” Joe said. “I’ll never forget him.”

The family expressed their thanks to the staff at both Covenant Medical Center, where David was, and to UT Southwestern Medical Center, where Joe received the transplant and LifeGift, which aided in the organ donation.

“We encourage the public to please educate yourselves,” Diana said. “Sit down with your family members. Open up this miracle of education regarding organ donation. Something good can be made out of something bad. My mother got a liver transplant and is doing awesome. She is 80 years old, 18 years with her liver transplant. My brother, Danny, had 19 years with his kidney transplant. I know they harvested David’s other kidney. I’m hoping that will bring great joy to another family as well.”

To learn more about organ donation, click here.

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