Local organization aiming to inform Latino community about being donors

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- 12-year-old Lorenzo Mata has a second chance at life after receiving a liver transplant five years ago.

He was diagnosed with Hepatopulmonary Syndrome. It's a rare condition that doctors say children are born with but is difficult to detect.

"I never thought something like this would happen to him," says Melissa Mata. "It wasn't at birth that he needed this. It literally just came on within months."

In Lorenzo's case, his parents noticed how quickly he ran out of oxygen when playing sports, leading them to the hospital.

His mother, Melissa, still remembers getting told he needed a transplant and the feeling when she received a phone call saying there was a donor.

"I mean, it was just a blessing," she said.

Lorenzo was one of the thousands nationwide waiting for that same phone call.

In California, over 20,000 people are on the waiting list.

About 1,000 of them are in Fresno County and looking closer, over 500 of that total are Hispanic.

"Latinos are under indexing in terms of registering on the registry, but we are over-indexing in the need," says Multicultural Initiatives Program Manager Marcella Corona.

Corona says they bridge the donors and the recipient's family.

She says statistics show that most Latinos are not registered to be donors - and much of it has to do with the culture and myths among the community.

"One we hear very often, far too often is first responders won't save my life if I am registered as a donor. which is not true, and you can check in with them," says Mario Hurtado.

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Donor Networks wants to spread awareness and inform the Latino community about why being a registered donor could someday save someone like Lorenzo.

"I just want to say thank you to my donor family for saving my life," Lorenzo said.

Melissa says they are in contact with the family of her son's donor. She also wants to encourage her fellow Latinos to have an open mind about organ donations.

Next week. there will be a virtual session where Hispanic leaders will share their stories and knowledge about donations.
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.