By Andrea Lucia
anthony varela Slain Mans Mother Promotes Organ Donation

Anthony Varela was killed by a drunken driver, but he donated his organs and saved lives. (Credit: Varela family)

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Renee Varela still cries every time she tells the story: Her 18-year-old son, Anthony, was on the road one night in August of 2010 when a drunken driver hit his SUV, throwing him from the vehicle.

“After hours of running tests, they determined he was brain-dead, and he was pronounced dead at 9:30 a.m.” she said as she wiped away tears addressing the families of organ donors at the annual Southwest Transplant Alliance annual meeting.

Varela then recalled how she made the decision to donate her son’s organs.

“He loved to help people. He always put others before himself, so we didn’t have a hard time deciding at all,” she said.

Those organs saved the lives of three strangers while his bones and tissues helped more than a hundred others.

Varela has since befriended her son’s organ recipients. Eric Ford Jr., who received Anthony’s heart and kidney, allows her to listen to her son’s heart beating inside his chest.

Varela never imagined, though, she’d be the one waiting for an organ.

Last summer, though, doctors diagnosed her father, Pedro Pesina, with liver cancer and told the family he’d need a transplant to survive.

On March 2, the family got a call. A liver was available.

So, they rushed to the Baylor Medical Center –– the same hospital where Anthony died and where his picture now hangs on a wall of heroes.

This time, though, they were the ones receiving the gift of life.

“When it happens to your family, you appreciate every day more,” said Varela.

Today, her father is doing well, and so is she.

As hard as it can be, though, Varela continues to tell her story, hoping to inspire others to register as organ donors.

To learn about how you can register, go to