There are more than 100,000 people nationwide on the organ transplant waiting list, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Statewide, there are more than 20,000 people on the organ transplant waiting list. Almost 90% of those on the waiting list in California are in need of a kidney.

Caitlyn Jolley was 18 months old when she died in 2010, Christopher Mantz was 11 when he died in 2017, Jasmine Jackson was 20 when she died in 2013, and Dylan Stump was 19 when he died in 2017.

Over the past few weeks, city councils across Riverside heard the stories of Caitlyn, Christopher, Jasmine and Dylan as they issued proclamations declaring April Donate Life Month.

“On April 25, 2013, Jasmine walked into the house, sat on the couch next to me, and I could tell she was having problems breathing,” OneLegacy Ambassador Rita Jackson, Jasmine’s mom, told the Corona City Council earlier this month. “Jasmine was only with me for about 10-15 minutes when she took a big gasp and collapsed in my arms as she said, ‘Help me mom.’ Those were her last breaths.”

Jasmine was rushed to Kaiser Permanente Riverside Medical Center where she died. The coroner later discovered that she had a pulmonary embolism — a blood clot in her lungs.

“There was nothing they could have done,” Jackson said. “There was no warning, there wasn’t any signs of what had happened, but to lose your only child at the young age of 20. The next couple of years were literally hell.”

On the second anniversary of her daughter’s death, Jackson said she had made the decision that she did not want to be alive, but a letter from an 18-year-old who was able to continue running track after tearing her ACL due to a tissue donation from Jasmine arrived that same day.

“Because of the decision my daughter made, that girl was not only on the varsity track team, but she had just received a college scholarship,” Jackson said. “That letter saved my life. I was ready to call it over, but knowing that my daughter achieved her goal of helping others, that has allowed me to go on for another eight years.”

Jasmine’s donations have benefited 35 different people, including a 13-year-old girl who received Jasmine’s heart valves.

“Because of my baby girl, that mom didn’t have to say goodbye to her daughter,” Jackson said.

Dylan was heading home from college for Easter dinner when he was involved in a minor accident. He was pulled off to the side of the road to wait for a tow truck when another driver crashed into his car, fatally injuring him. 

His donation is why OneLegacy Ambassador Erika Heranic was able to share her story with the Menifee and Murrieta city councils this month and the Lake Elsinore City Council last month.

“My heart journey actually began around Easter of 2016 when I got ill and it triggered a heart attack, and then triggered an arrhythmia, then triggered me going to cardiac arrest about nine times to the point of needing life support,” she said. “I would not have survived without a heart transplant.”

In 2017, she got the call that they had found a heart for her.

“My donor mom calls me the silver lining to a tragedy,” Heranic said. “I get to honor his legacy with her.”

Caitlyn was with a caretaker when her father got the call that she was being rushed to the hospital.

“The neurosurgeons did the best they could to save her life, but unfortunately they couldn’t save her,” OneLegacy Ambassador Allen Jolley told the Jurupa Valley City Council at a recent meeting. “At 18 months old, she gave the gift of life to three individuals.”

Caitlyn’s heart was donated to a 7-month-old girl, her liver was donated to an 8-month-old girl, and her kidney was donated to a 44-year-old man.

“Last I heard, all three are doing fantastic,” Jolley said. “During the most difficult times, I still remember the gift of life that my daughter gave. I’m proud to be a donor dad and be able to share that message with so many other people.”

Jolley also had another message for any adult who interacts with children.

“My daughter would still be here if it wasn’t for the act of someone else, so I would encourage you to take an adult timeout when needed,” he said. “You never know how one minute of anger could change a life forever.”

Chris, who was autistic, was in the sixth grade when he accidentally suffocated at home while in his therapy swing. His mom said he loved trains and Batman and was the first to want a hug.

“Unfortunately after exhaustive efforts they were unable to save him, but because of the hard work of those healthcare workers, he was able to save five lives through organ donation,” OneLegacy Ambassador Kat Mantz told the Calimesa City Council earlier this month. “His kidney and pancreas went to one man, his liver went to another man, both of his heart valves went to children under the age of five, but Chris’s other kidney went to this amazing little boy named Eddie.”

Eddie, Mantz said, was born with dysplastic kidney disease. Because of this, she said Eddie spent the first three and a half years of his life in and out of hospitals.

“Today, Eddie is an energetic and active nine-year-old,” Mantz said. “He plays baseball and soccer and the violin and he is in the third grade, and although my son will never again play outside or go to school I now have the great joy and pleasure of watching this little man live his very best life because of my little man.”

Mantz also shared Chris’ story earlier this month at the regular meetings of the Norco and Beaumont city councils and during the annual flag raising ceremony at Riverside Community Hospital.

Riverside Community Hospital is the largest supplier of organ and tissue donors in the Inland Empire, according to OneLegacy, and is the only transplant center in Riverside County.

There are more than 100,000 people nationwide on the organ transplant waiting list, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Statewide, there are more than 20,000 people on the organ transplant waiting list. Almost 90% of those on the waiting list in California are in need of a kidney.

“Anything that we can do to make people aware and informed about this life-giving choice needs to happen,” Mantz said. “Chris is gone but he lives on in others. Chris is gone but he is not forgotten. And because of the gift of organ and tissue donation, he’s not only remembered by us, his family and friends, but also by the family and the friends of the lives that he helped save and for that I will forever be grateful.”

Later this week the Temecula, Eastvale and Wildomar city councils are set to issue similar proclamations declaring April Donate Life Month in their cities. San Jacinto previously declared April Donate Life Month.

Established in 2003, National Donate Life Month helps raise awareness about donation, encourages people to register as organ donors and honors those who have saved countless lives through their donation. Learn more here about organ and tissue donation and how you can sign up to be a donor.

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