News Article

Giving and Receiving the Gift of Life: Mona Castro Shares Her Family's Bittersweet Transplant Story

Mona Castro visited One Lambda to share her family’s poignant story of both giving and receiving the gift of life. Mona's daughter, Sara, is a two-time transplant recipient who was born with severe congenital heart disease.

As the parent of a pediatric transplant recipient, this mom and patient advocate discusses her family’s transplant experience.

In September 2019, Mona Castro visited us for the Patient Voice Series to share her family’s poignant transplant patient story of both giving and receiving the gift of life. Mona's daughter, Sara, is a two-time transplant recipient who was born with severe congenital heart disease. Shortly after birth, Sara was put on the national waiting list for a heart transplant, and at the tender age of five weeks old, Sara received her first gift of life: a transplant from a deceased donor.

"They (doctors) told us on that particular day, day 4, that Sara needed to have a pacemaker implanted... so, on that day she had her first operation. A 4-pound baby, you know as tiny as can be, with a pacemaker... It was implanted into her stomach.


Mona Castro | Parent of a Heart Transplant Patient

The process was more harrowing than Mona initially expected. “I was thinking of it like taking your car to the mechanic,” Mona recalled. “They’re gonna fix her, give her back to me, and we’re gonna go home, and life is going to be normal… but I was wrong. Along with a transplant comes a whole new way of life.”

Sara and her family were required to relocate to be close to the hospitral for the six months following the transplant surgery. And as Sara’s mom, Mona had to memorize Sara’s complicated medication regimen. “I was a wreck because I thought, what if I do something wrong? What if I make her more ill?” Mona said.

Thankfully, Sara tolerated her post-transplant medication very well. In the years following, Sara grew up to be an adult who is very active in the transplant community: she participates in the DonateLife Run/Walk, volunteers every year to build the OneLegacy Rose Parade float, and competes in the Transplant Games. Meanwhile Mona joined the transplant community as a passionate OneLegacy Ambassador, and her family soon welcomed a new nephew, Lucas, to the family.

But the Castro family lost little Lucas far too soon. The day before his fourth birthday, Lucas experienced a severe allergic reaction and was rushed to the hospital. Two days later, he passed away, surrounded by his loving family. At the time of Lucas’s death, Sara had been in kidney failure for several years due the long-term effects of her medication. As soon as the Castro family lost Lucas, they immediately asked if Lucas could be a match for Sara.

Lucas did, indeed, become Sara’s match. He saved the lives of three people: Sara received one kidney, while the other kidney went to a fifty-something woman; his liver was given to a two-year-old girl. All three recipients, including Sara, are currently doing well.

“It’s still extremely fresh and very hard, emotionally. We’re grieving the loss of our baby, our little hero,” said Mona. Though Mona and her family are still processing the loss, she shares Lucas’s story because it is one way his memory and legacy can live on.

To the team at One Lambda, Mona expressed appreciation for the business’s mission and work for the impact it has on both donor and recipient families: “I also want to thank all of you for what you do here… What you do is extremely important for families like mine.”