The legacy of Diego Degrossi: How one life can save many
Across America, there are approximately 106,000 people on the waiting list to receive an organ transplant operation.
This is due to the number of donors and successful transplants. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, approximately 169 million people in the U.S. are registered organ donors however, only three in 1,000 people die in a way that allows for their organs to be successfully used in organ transplant operations.
Parents to three kids, Ana and Martin Degrossi lost their middle son, Diego, who passed away due to a drowning accident in 2019.
The Degrossi family was faced with grief, depression and overwhelming emotions surrounding the loss of their son. However, they were also unexpectedly presented with the opportunity to save multiple lives in the midst of losing Diego, becoming a spark of hope for other families.
The conversation about organ donation came up with the help of Valeria, their oldest daughter.
“We wanted to speak with a recipient, and the conversation was so powerful. Hearing from the mom of a five-year-old, we realized we could not only save a life, but save a family,” Martin Degrossi said. “If she hadn’t gotten the gift, she wouldn’t have been able to continue and be with her family.”
The Degrossi family grew up playing sports and, to continue Diego’s legacy they created an organization called Diego1K4L to raise awareness about the need for organ donations. They host annual 5k runs with their local community in order to celebrate the heroism of their son and the impact of their donation.
“We do this to be able to see Diego’s legacy, not just to think about him being gone, but to have the hope to see his legacy and organs in another person, that gives us hope,” Ana Degrossi said.
Their local community, family and friends came together to support the Degrossi family in unimaginable ways. Through food deliveries, donations and support, the little details strengthened the family in such a heartbreak.
Life Alliance is an organization dedicated to healing lives through organ donations and transplantations. Organ Procurement Organization and Community Education Specialist Melva Sanchez has worked with the organization for six years.
“You can save up to eight lives with organ donation,” Sanchez said. “You can enhance up to 250 lives with the tissue, cornea, bone marrow and more.”
Sanchez explained that the many misconceptions about organ donation come from people’s upbringing and what they were taught growing up.
“Unfortunately in other countries, it might not be safe or well known, so there is fear and lack of knowledge,” Sanchez said. “That is why it is so important to educate the community and get the word out there.”
Every 10 minutes, someone is added to the organ transplant waiting list, and approximately 20 people die daily waiting. In 2021, there were 41,354 organ transplants performed.
The Degrossi family expressed they had many questions about donating their son’s organs, which is why the correct information needs to be communicated better.
“We have to figure out a way to make it easier to talk about donating organs. Accidents happen all the time, and if more people are open to organ donations, more lives can be saved,” Martin Degrossi said.
As the Degrossi family continues on sharing their son’s legacy, raising donations and awareness to heal families. They also encourage those who are hesitant about donating on behalf of a loved one or registering to donate to reconsider the impact that they could make on the lives of others.
“One of the things to know about donating is that you can turn a tragedy into something positive, even if it’s not for you,” Martin Degrossi said. “What would we have given to have Diego be the one who needed a gift, rather than it being the other way. It’s about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.”
The Degrossi family hopes to keep extending their family’s story, voicing that even a devastation can turn into a miracle for another family.
By Grace Sigler and Daniella Parra