Young man's organ donation saves 5 lives amid coronavirus pandemic

Organ donations are in critical need during the COVID-19 crisis.

Currently, there are 4,000 people in Illinois waiting to receive an organ transplant. FOX 32 spoke to one mother who just went through the donation process and hopes others will give, too.

Mireya Pineda remembers her son, Danny Villagomez, for his big heart and warm smile.

“Danny was always there whenever someone needed him,” Pineda said.

He had dreams of finishing school and going to the Navy.

“It just slipped away so fast. We got the phone call that changed our lives forever,” mom said.

Danny passed away on April 13th.

“I miss him so much already,” his mother said.

Danny was just 20 years old.

“Danny’s not here anymore, but you know, he lives through others,” Pineda said.

With the help of Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network, Danny’s organs helped save the lives of five other people. His donations are critical during the pandemic.

Gift of hope, which covers organ donation in Illinois and northwest Indiana, says it was on pace to transplant about 1,500 organs this year prior to March 15th. Since the coronavirus hit, donation numbers dropped by about 30 percent.

“We’ve had to very quickly put in place testing for any potential donors to make sure that they’re negative for COVID,” said Kevin Cmunt, President and CEO of Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network.

He says the drop in donation is because of the reduction in the number of people coming into hospitals who could be donors.

“And then out of an abundance of caution, you know, our transplant programs are being more cautious about transplanting patients and what organs they’ll accept,” Cmunt said.

Gift of Hope says while the opportunities for donation have decreased, a higher percentage of families are saying "yes" to donation than ever before.

“Although Danny didn’t get a second chance, others will,” said Pineda.

To find out how you can become a donor, visit