Miracles and fisticuffs in Chile organ donation drama

March 25, 2009

Was it a God-granted miracle or a reason to fight?

Relatives of 12-year-old Chilean schoolboy Diego Poblete, in critical condition due to liver failure, were desperately praying at Mass on Sunday for a donor to emerge, when word suddenly came through that a suitable match had been found.

Transplant organ rushed to hospital Doctors had given young Diego just 48 hours to live and his family had nearly given up hope.

As Diego’s family members rejoiced in a miracle from God, friends of the donor — a youth run over by a car in Chile’s northern mining heartland of Antofagasta — broke hospital windows and scuffled, convinced doctors were too quick to declare him brain-dead, even though relatives had accepted his fate and agreed to donate his organs.

Clinging to hope, 21-year-old Rodrigo Chaparro’s friends believed they had witnessed a small miracle of their own — a tear rolling from his eye, apparently signalling he understood what was happening.

“There was a tear. They gave him a day on life support, just one day, when other people have been in intensive care for a month after being run over and survive,” said one friend.

Police had to rush to the hospital in Antofagasta as Rodrigo’s friends broke a glass door and eight window panes. One of them was even arrested.

Diego’s high-profile case, as well as that of another Chilean schoolboy, 11-year-old Felipe Cruzat, who is now surviving on an artificial heart after the family of a potential donor refused citing the deceased’s religious convictions, triggered calls from Roman Catholic Church leaders to donate organs.

Chile’s health minister even said the government would try to speed through legislation that would make organ donation for all Chileans aged 14 and over mandatory.

Miracle or not, the gods are smiling on young Diego. The transplant on Monday was a success and his body is taking to the new organ so far.

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