Nearly three months after Maria Tritico was tragically killed by a stray bullet on Singer Island, her life continues to live on inside Donna Haskins, a longtime family friend and former prosecutor in Houston, Texas.
"Organ donors are heroes in every sense of the word," Haskins said. "Every morning and every night I say prayers of gratitude for her and for her family. I just want to be a better person because she's with me."
Donna was running out of options after battling polycystic kidney disease for years. The genetic disease leads to renal failure.
"Over time the kidney disease got worse and worse. I was hospitalized in November for over a week," Donna said.
Donna's sisters started a social media campaign for a kidney transplant, but on December 7, Maria's dad called her. The 32-year-old education director at the Lighthouse ArtCenter in Tequesta was an organ donor, and three days later Donna learned Maria's kidney was a perfect match.
"I kept saying I'm sorry, I'm so sorry and Chris said Donna you don't understand...this is the only shining light in our darkness," Donna said.
Dr. Kiran Dhanireddy, the Executive Director of the Transplant Institute at Tampa General Hospital, says about every 10 minutes someone across the country is added to the transplant waiting list.
"On a daily basis between 110,000 and 120,000 people in the country are awaiting transplantation, and on a daily basis in Florida it's about 5,500 people," said Dr. Dhanireddy.
Donna considers herself very lucky, and through heartbreak and loss comes new life.
"They chose to see this as a blessing and I'll be forever grateful to them for that," Donna said.
Doctors say one organ donor can save up to eight lives. If you would like to become an organ donor, you can learn more through Life Alliance Organ Recovery Agency, (LAORA) a non-profit service organization with the unique role of saving lives through organ donation and transplantation. If interested, you can visit donatelifeflorida.org, laora.org or call 1-800-232-2892.
You can also visit, registerme.org.