First-ever Walk of Respect for Organ Donors held at Memorial Hermann

By Keith Garvin - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - It was a first ever walk of respect for an organ donor at Memorial Hermann.

A quiet, solemn moment with family, friends, and hospital staff lining the hallways to honor the sacrifice made by 33-year-old Juanita Deluna.

Deluna -- known for her kindness and love -- was declared brain dead last week after suffering a seizure and losing oxygen to her brain.

"She just had such a tender heart," says her brother Juan.  Always willing to share that love she had with others."

Deluna -- mother to a 6-year-old daughter -- was not a registered donor but her family believed it was a decision she would've wanted to make.

"Just based off of all her characteristics, as a collective mind of brothers and sisters we thought, and we know, this is something she would want to do," Juan says.

After prayers Deluna was wheeled down a hallway with hymns and music playing in the background. The moment was organized by LifeGift -- an organization that facilitates organ and tissue donation in Houston. For them it was about giving honor and dignity.

"It also gives us a chance to recognize that patient," says Laura Quinn, vice president for external relations for LifeGift. "And recognize the decision that has been made and the profound impact that it will have on the recipients and the recipients' families."

Deluna's organs were harvested to save the lives of four other patients. The moment produced mixed emotions for her family -- but they say their sadness was only eclipsed by their pride in Juanita.

"We get the sense of, 'Man, they have life because of our sister,'" says Juan. "And the hero that she's become through that. Through giving of her organs."

Juanita was also special because she had a rare blood type. Her organs were donated to four individuals ranging from ages 16-to-69 and one of them had been waiting for a transplant for more than 638 days. Her brothers and sisters say she was a blessing to those recipients and their families.

A memorial fund has been set up.

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