Donor’s Mantra: Save Lives!
It was the last day of their vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and Morgan Gallegos couldn’t wait to get on the water. The adventurous 14-year-old was eager to try all things fast: roller coasters, motorcycles (Mom always said no) and even zip lines. So, with her brown eyes sparkling, she jumped at the chance to spend the last few hours of vacation on the water with her father and brother while her sister and mom went shopping.
But shortly after the adventure began, there was a collision, and Morgan fell off her personal water craft, hit her head and went under.
It took 15 minutes for a doctor to arrive on the beach, where her distraught father Tim and her brother, Austin, watched in horror as efforts to revive Morgan proved futile.
When her mother, Margot, and sister, Michaela, arrived, all they could do was wait for the ambulance that carried Morgan and her mother to a Mexican hospital for brain scans.
The news wasn’t encouraging, but they weren’t ready to give up. Later, a prop jet took Margot and Morgan to a San Diego hospital, where they waited for the rest of the family and friends to arrive.
Donor’s Mantra: Save Lives!
“Save lives, Mom,” was how Morgan said goodbye every time Margot left for a shift in the NorthBay Medical Center Emergency Department. “She was so proud that I went back to school and got my nursing degree at age 40,” recalls Margot. “She’d even leave me little purple sticky notes that read, “Save Lives!” and “I Love You!”
So when Margot kissed her daughter goodbye for the last time in the hallway at Rady Children’s Hospital, she whispered words that resonated: “Go save lives, Morgan.”
The family never doubted that Morgan would want to be an organ donor.
“Morgan always went out of her way to make people feel comfortable. She was amazing, caring and compassionate. Her brother and sister didn’t hesitate in helping us make the decision,” says Margot. “It was the right thing to do.”
Morgan’s generous gift has saved lives: five so far, and counting.
“Thank you for allowing such a precious part of your daughter to be given with the hope that someone else might live,” a 51-year-old woman wrote to the Vacaville family. “I am the lucky someone who received her heart, and I am beyond grateful.”
Her letter came in October 2010, just seven months after Morgan’s tragic accident. “I feel very close to your daughter’s heart,” she wrote. “Because of her I can now look forward to a longer and healthier life. Because of her, I can do things without chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness and sudden trips to the ER Because of her, I can now see a future filled with many new and wonderful things.”
A 66-year-old man received her lungs. Before the transplant, he couldn’t even walk to the mailbox. Now he’s off the oxygen tank completely. “His friends and family threw a party for him, and he asked everyone to write notes to us,” says Margot. “They all shared what a wonderful man he is and how much it meant to them that our daughter saved his life.”
A 10-year-old boy with congenital liver disease can now do things he couldn’t before. Two other recipients benefited from her kidneys. And one more gift, still waiting to be used, are her corneas, says Tim. “She was such an avid reader,” recalls Margot. “We hope whoever gets her corneas will also love to read.”
Morgan Nicole Gallegos was a triplet, born a minute ahead of her brother Austin and sister Michaela, as she often reminded them, smiles Margot. She was a huge Johnny Depp fan, and her purple bedroom was plastered with posters reflecting that admiration. She saved up her own money so she could go to the Solano Community College’s Tom Hanks Program and was shaking with nerves when it began. She loved soccer, books, writing, and was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society at Jepson Middle School.
One of her last assignments was for English class, when she was asked to comment on an excerpt from “The Diary of a Young Girl,” by Anne Frank. She selected the famous quote,
“I want to keep on living after my death!”
“I think almost everybody wants that,” wrote Morgan. “But Anne said it in perfect words. Even I want to keep on living after death. I want people to remember me and know my name. I want to make a difference, big enough that people outside my family will be sad that I’m gone.”
The tears flowed on Monday, Aug. 15, when
a plaque in Morgan’s honor was dedicated at NorthBay Medical Center and placed just outside Room No. 1 in the Emergency Department.
“Not everyone at NorthBay had a chance to meet this amazing young lady, but her story inspires us to be greater than we are. Our hearts go out to the family,” said Daman Mott, director of Emergency Services and Trauma.
“Morgan’s spirit and her generosity made her immortal. Her unselfish gifts of life embody the heart and soul of NorthBay, which vows compassionate care and advanced medicine, close to home. Daily we will remember and honor Morgan’s memory and the ideals she embraced in her all-too-short life.”