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Woman Honors Her Fiancé’s Wishes To Be An Organ Donor
“The most beautiful part of him was his heart”
Rafael Bruno Colon had a genuine, beautiful heart. That’s what drew Kathy Allen to him as they talked over Chinese food on their first date. She marveled at how two people from different backgrounds and cities, Rafael from Humboldt Park in Chicago and herself from Des Plaines, Ill., could have so much in common. She was amazed that this man, who had many hardships growing up and struggled with addiction could still have tremendous faith in God and so much love for everyone around him.
Rafael was known by many as the guy that would help anyone who needed it, even if he had little of his own to share. Two years after their first date, Rafael and Kathy were engaged and planned to get married in the Spring of 2020.
An Honor Walk
But, when at the age of 41 Rafael was put on life support following cardiac arrest, Kathy suddenly found herself facing the unimaginable and struggling to find the right way to honor him. When she was first approached about Rafael’s wishes to be an organ donor, Kathy was resistant.
“I was conflicted and against [donation] at first because I didn’t have a positive viewpoint,” Kathy said. “I held Rafael’s hand and prayed, he had been motionless. I said, ‘I don’t know what to do, these people want your organs.’ I asked him to give me a sign, and at that very moment one single tear came from his eye and ever so slightly I felt a squeeze. I said, ‘let’s do this.’ There was no doubt in my mind, I knew what he wanted. I feel passionate about organ donation now.”
Shannon Wyatt, a Donation Specialist for Gift of Hope, helped support and guide Kathy and the family through the organ donation process. She explained to Kathy what’s known as the “honor walk” where hospital staff line the halls in silent support while the donor family walks through the hospital, followed by the surgical team reading aloud the family’s memories and messages.
“I couldn’t have done it without Shannon,” Kathy said. “She supported me through the entire process. She even walked with me during the honor walk at 7 a.m. That meant a lot.”
A Superhero’s Heart
Born in the Bronx, New York, Rafael’s family moved to Puerto Rico when he was a child, then to Humboldt Park. He learned to speak English by watching television, including reruns of I Love Lucy. A Superman fan, Rafael was always optimistic and believed it was important to make a difference and give back to others.
“He went out like Superman, the hero he always wanted to be,” Kathy said. “The addiction wasn’t going to allow him to be a hero, so God used him in another way to be the hero that he was meant to be.”
Through the donation process, Rafael’s heart, two kidneys and his liver were donated to transplant patients. This past Spring, Kathy received a letter from the heart transplant recipient and after the two spoke, she was invited to visit him in Mississippi over the summer.
“Once I knew Rafael would be a heart donor I didn’t have to let go, the most beautiful part of him was that heart,” Kathy said. “Knowing a man was going to get that heart, I think that helped me through the grieving process. In a way, it was like I didn’t have to let go of him. His heart is being put to good use now. Just to know I’m going to hear his heartbeat again, I can’t tell you what that means.”
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