When he died, his liver saved a baby’s life. Now their families met for the first time

1 Fort Lauderdale

Local Search & News & Reviews

1 News - 1 eMovies - 1 eMusic - 1 eBooks - 1 Search

Search - News - Reviews - Coupons - Bars - Food

Bars - Live Music - Free Music - Contact Us - Advertise

They have the same laugh, the same goofy spirit and the same favorite color — red.

Deanna Anderson, 3, and Kenneth Romero, 23, also share a liver. She was only 3 months old when doctors told her parents, Heidi and Eric, that their child’s rare liver disease meant she wouldn’t live to her first birthday.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt weaker in my life,” Heidi Anderson, 35, said Friday at a National Donate Life event in Doral.

In front of her, Deanna preened and posed for cameras, laughing and shaking her curly blond hair. She wore a blue and green tutu — a nod to her favorite hobby — and a T-shirt that read, “The greatest hero I ever knew was the donor who saved my life.” “Kenneth,” in glittery black script, was emblazoned on the back.

DonorGirl 02 EKM

Emily Michot emichot@miamiherald.com

Just three months earlier, Deanna’s parents couldn’t picture their only daughter making it out of the hospital. Her father, 46-year-old Eric Anderson, pointed to his Facebook profile picture, a close-up of him kissing his infant daughter’s cheek as she lay in her hospital crib.

“This picture is basically me kissing her goodbye,” he said. “I thought that was it.”

Salvation came to the Anderson family at the expense of the Romero family. Kenneth Romero, a 23-year-old married graduate student, died of an asthma attack in February 2014. His older sister, Ruth, tried to save him with CPR, but he didn’t make it. He agreed to donate his organs at age 15, when he checked the box on his license. His organs saved five lives, including baby Deanna’s.

The week her daughter was put on the transplant list, Heidi signed up to be a donor. She chose not to at 15 because, “I was a little scared. I’ll be honest,” she said.

Now, she said she couldn’t be more grateful for every person who donates their organs. “Without the donor, there is no story,” Heidi said. “There is no life.”

Last year, 1,250 South Floridians donated their organs, said Dr. A. Sam Salama, executive director of Life Alliance Organ Recovery Agency. Their donations led to 153,000 transplants for his tissue bank. The numbers were met with applause and cheers from the crowd, who gathered to celebrate the second annual National Donate Life Blue and Green day.

Donor families, transplant recipients and families shared their stories with the crowd. Almost every story left the room sniffling and crying.

Then came the Andersons’ time to share their story. Afterward, the Romero family was led in, and the two families met for the first time in an emotional embrace that left the audience in tears. As Maria, Kenneth’s mom, and Heidi held each other tight and sobbed, Deanna pranced around with the “Frozen”-themed dolls the Romero family brought her.

DonorGirl 03 EKM

Emily Michot emichot@miamiherald.com

The two families, who’d been texting for the month leading up to the celebration, exchanged bracelets (red, of course) and a stuffed panda bear programmed to play a recording of Deanna saying “This is Deanna. Thank you. I love you so much.”

Deanna pulled up her “Kenneth” shirt on Friday and showed Ruth the pale scar that stretches across her torso.

“It’s a little bit of our heart. You have to take care of it and cherish it forever,” Ruth said as she looked into Heidi’s eyes. Ruth turned and looked at Deanna. “She is also a little bit of us,” she said. “It’s our duty to care for her.”

Heidi promised they would always be a family and would honor Kenneth’s gift every chance they could.

“What’s the magic words, Deanna?” Heidi asked.

The toddler stopped, turned to her mother and smiled. “Please, thank you and donate life!”

Register here to be an organ donor.

1 Fort Lauderdale

Local Search & News & Reviews

1 News - 1 eMovies - 1 eMusic - 1 eBooks - 1 Search

Search - News - Reviews - Coupons - Bars - Food

Bars - Live Music - Free Music - Contact Us - Advertise