SAVANNAH, GA - (December 8, 2015) – On New Year’s Day 2016, Ommy Irizarry, and his daughter, Oceana, will be memorialized and remembered for both the lives they led and their gifts of organ and tissue donation, along with 58 other organ, tissue and eye donors from around the country, with floral portraits called floragraphs on the Donate Life float in the Rose Parade. This year marks the 13th appearance of a Donate Life float in the parade, which is viewed in person by thousands every January 1st in Pasadena, California, and on television by millions around the world. Along with floragraphs depicting individuals who have saved lives through donation, transplant recipients who have received donated organs or tissue will ride the float on the parade path, and the float is accompanied by living organ donors who have given a kidney or part of another vital organ to someone in need.
“Planes just don’t fall from the sky, let alone fall from the sky on my family on one of the best days of our lives,” remembers Rebecca Irizarry of the accident that impacted her life forever. That morning, July 27, 2014, started as another day of beach vacation to celebrate her ninth anniversary with her husband, Ommy, and their children. It ended in tragedy, as a plane literally did fall from the sky onto Casperson Beach in Venice, FL, immediately claiming Ommy’s life, and ultimately taking daughter, Oceana’s, as well.
Rebecca, an Army combat veteran and a licensed practical nurse, had discussed end of life wishes with Ommy. He had made a career of the military, and was a Sergeant stationed at Ft. Stewart near Savannah, Georgia. She just had never considered actually carrying them out. However, Rebecca relates, “That day and the days that follow seem like a blur, although every choice I made was informed and deliberate.” One such choice would change the course of life for complete strangers, and save people she may never meet. Even in the midst of loss, Rebecca chose life for others through organ and tissue donation.
“Yes, of course. This is one hundred percent what he wanted,” Rebecca says of Ommy, “and although my sweet angel at nine-years-old was never introduced to the idea of organ and tissue donation, it is what she wanted as well. Through this entire experience, it was the easiest decision to make.” Oceana saved the lives of three people, and Ommy’s gift of tissue donation changed the lives of potentially dozens of others.
LifeLink is the non-profit organization which facilitates organ and tissue donation in west Florida, the state of Georgia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There are more than 120,000 people awaiting the gift of a lifesaving organ transplant in the United States, and tens of thousands more could benefit from tissue donation. Organ and tissue donation, with the primary exception of living kidney donation, takes place after death.
Register today as an organ and/or tissue donor online at https://www.lifelinkfoundation.org/organ-donation/how-to-register/. You can also visit www.LifeLinkFoundation.org for more information, or call us at 800-262-5775 in Florida, or 800-544-6667 in Georgia.