In June 1998, 17-year-old Paul Anthony Lopez graduated from high school with honors. The recipient of several scholarships, Paul planned to attend New York University in the fall to pursue a doctorate in psychology, then establish a bilingual practice in his community. The troubled youth of his community weighed heavily on his mind, and he had hoped to work among them to inspire and enrich their lives. A member of the Hispanic Traveling Dance Theatre, his culture was very important to Paul, which was evident in his talent on the stage and in his expression of dance.
On July 30, 1998, Paul was hit by a reckless drunk driver and airlifted to a hospital. Two days later, he was declared brain dead. The New York Organ Donor Network counselors at the hospital approached the family. “Knowing the type of person that Paul was – so healthy, lively, considerate and unselfish – we knew that donating his organs was the only correct thing to do,” said Celina Lopez, his mother. “Miraculously, we later found out that he had said that, in the event anything should ever happen to him, he would like to have his organs go to save lives. He had discussed the topic of organ donation with a friend, and she told us of the conversation.”
Five people were successfully transplanted with Paul’s gifts. “We have been very fortunate to become acquainted with the recipient of Paul’s liver, and he has become like part of our family,” said Celina. “He had been gravely ill, and now it gives us great joy to see him well and enjoying his life and family.”
The Lopezes have established a scholarship in Paul’s name to promote the ideas and goals of their son, whose dreams and wishes were unfulfilled by his untimely death.