McMinnville, Ore – Alejandra Cortes’ life changed permanently when her younger brother, Jose, suffered an unexpected heart attack at the age of 35. Jose survived, but his heart was damaged to such an extent that sometimes he could not walk or have a conversation without becoming exhausted. He needed a heart transplant.
Two years later, Jose received a heart. Since then, Alejandra has been called to serve her community by encouraging Spanish speakers to learn about organ, eye, and tissue donation – and to register as donors.
On Saturday, July 10, she will be leading the Cadena de Vida festival in McMinnville, Ore., from 8-5 at St James Catholic Church on 1st St. Cadena de Vida means Chain of Life. “The first link in the chain was Jose’s heart donor,” Alejandra said
Cadena de Vida is a free festival where the Spanish-speaking community can receive, in a joyful way, information about blood donation, as well as organ, eye, and tissue donation. It is a family event with live music, games, raffles, face painting, clowns, Zumba, snacks, and testimonies about donation.
Alejandra is excited about the success of the festival over the last five years. Last year, more than 700 people attended. In fact, Alejandra said, “The Red Cross has collected 197 units of blood, and with that, many people have been saved. Also, many people have registered as organ donors.”
Many organizations have joined the festival including: Promotores de Salud (Health Promoters), Northwest Family Services, Northwest Seniors & Disability Services, Medical Team International, and Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, among others.
“Before Jose’s illness, I was only focused on my own life and my own family, but because of the generous gift that my brother received, I have been inspired to serve my community,” Alejandra said. “I feel very thankful and fortunate because, through service, I have had the opportunity to meet amazing human beings and learn that true happiness is in service,” she said. She encourages everyone to register as a donor.
In 2017, Alejandra was awarded the United Network for Organ Sharing's National Donor Memorial Award for Excellence, in recognition of her untiring efforts as a donation advocate. This was the first time in the award's history that it was bestowed upon the family member of an organ recipient. Alejandra lives in Dayton, Ore. For photos of Alejandra and Jose, please click this link.
About Donate Life Northwest: Donate Life Northwest’s mission is to save and improve lives by promoting organ, eye and tissue donation. Since 1975, Donate Life Northwest is committed to educating the public about organ, eye, and tissue donation, motivating individuals to register as donors in Oregon and Southwest Washington, and providing a supportive community for donor families, recipients, and donation supporters.