Day care fire victim saves lives through organ donation

HOUSTON – One of the victims of a fatal day care fire has helped save several lives.

Jasmin Tovar can barely keep up with her son Jacob, who is just a ball of energy.

Jacob will turn 4 this December.

But, two years ago, he was clinging to life, hospitalized with a deadly cancerous tumor on his liver.

Tovar told Local 2, “They told me that he couldn’t last that long on the waiting list because it was critical. So, if they didn’t get the liver by a certain time, he could die.”

Jacob’s family waited an agonizing three months. Then, the call came.

Jasmin recalled, “We just received a call … it was at night and we were shocked that it was a little bit of a wait, but he was going to be saved.”

The date was Feb. 25, 2011.

The day before, the Houston area was stunned by news of a horrific fire at a day care. Seven children were pulled from the blaze. Four died.

One of the children who died was 16-month-old Elias Castillo.

His family’s heartfelt decision to donate his organs saved Jacob’s life, giving him the liver he so desperately needed.

Jasmin only later learned who the little donor was.

She said, “I was surprised because I did see (the fire) on the news, but I didn’t put that much attention to it. But, when I knew that was the (Castillo) family, I was very surprised.”

After Sheree Jones’ son Chad, an organ donor, died in 2009 in a motorcycle accident, she created the Organ Donor Hall of Fame, recognizing those who give the gift of life.

Jones told Local 2, “Knowing that four people are spending time with their family and friends, celebrating another birthday, another Christmas, unfortunately our son doesn’t get to do that. But with his gift of life, there are other families that are doing the same thing and it’s an amazing thing.”

Elias’ mother contacted Jones, asking that her son be recognized as one of the youngest donors.

She wrote, “Elias Xavier Castillo saved three lives. A 3-month-old little boy with his heart, a 2-year-old little boy with his liver and a 40-year-old woman with both of his kidneys. He’s a hero in my eyes and forever will be!”

Laura Davis of LifeGift said, “Organ donation definitely brings comfort to the people that lost their loved ones. It soothes their grief. It helps them take such a tragic situation and take something positive and good out of it.”

Tovar and Jacob had a chance to meet the Castillo family, which proved to be a very emotional reunion.”

Tovar explained, “It was sad, their eyes, their faces. They were happy, but sad at the same time.”

Now, every giggle, every smile is a reminder of how Jacob is thriving, thanks to the incredible strength of one family at their time of loss.

Tovar said, “I’m really grateful that he’s healthy (and) he’s here because he wasn’t going to make it and I’m grateful for the family that donated so my son could live right now.”

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