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A hero born out of tragedy
William DeOliveira
Turlock native William DeOliveira died suddenly from a heart event in San Diego (Photo contributed).

In the midst of their grief over the sudden loss of their son, a Turlock couple is hanging on to the one bright spot in all the tragedy — his last act on earth was to become a hero to at least three others through organ donation.

William DeOliveira was excited to start a new chapter in his young life. The 2020 Turlock High grad had just finished earning an associate’s degree from Modesto Junior College and moved to San Diego weeks before he planned to continue his education at San Diego State University.

According to his mother, William and his friends decided to play a pick-up game of soccer during which he suffered a heart event and was rushed to the hospital. Despite the quick response and expert care, he suffered irreversible neurological damage. Through genealogical testing, it was later determined that William had a gene variant that may have caused his heart to enlarge, thinning the walls making it too weak to pump blood through his body effectively.

As his life ended his heroics began by donating organs to save the lives of three men. Two, in their 30s, received kidneys, one of which was on dialysis since he was 21. The third received William’s liver. Not only did William save their lives he made a monumental impact on the lives of their loved ones, said his mother, Lisa DeOliveira.

“It’s just a way of making a very tragic and painful situation a little bit more palatable,” said Lisa DeOliveira.

“We prayed for recovery for a long time. And then when we found out that he wasn’t going to get better…we prayed for two or three days when we were going through the process of determining whether William could be a donor, then finding out he could be a donor. And then it was three days after that that we found out it was three lives, not just the one we knew about initially…It was really in the last three weeks the only two or three bits of good news that we’ve had this week and we’ll take it under our arms and run with it,” said his father, Curtiss DeOliveira.

According to Donate Life California:

·    -     One person can save eight lives and enhance 75 others through organ, eye and tissue donation;

·    -     Nearly 114,000 Americans are currently waiting for an organ transplant, nearly 22,000 live in California. An organ transplant is their only remaining medical option;

·    -     On average, 150 people are added to the nation’s organ transplant waiting list each day—one every 10 minutes;Anyone can become a potential organ donor regardless of age, ethnicity or medical history.

In tribute to William, the DeOliveiras are encouraging everyone, no matter their age, to consider organ donation.

A celebration of William’s life will be held with family and friends on Oct. 7. In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be made in William's memory to either:

·     -    Jessica’s House in Turlock — or Jessica’s House, P.O. Box 1712, Turlock, CA 95381; or

·     -    Donate Life California — or Donate Life, 3940 Industrial Blvd. West Sacramento, CA 95691.

The DeOliveiras have been longtime supporters of Jessica’s House, a grief counseling center for children and families. They are now leaning on the organization for support.

“They’re just very compassionate. They’re real people…they have experience beyond knowledge. I’ve just been touched by what they do. And so we wanted to make it part of our lives moving forward, both as participants in their counseling and supporters,” said Curtiss DeOliveira.