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South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS)

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San Antonio VA holds first Honor Donor Walk

A hospital bed wheeled past employees standing in the hallway

Rochelle's mother, Irene Estrada, was very happy that the Audie L. Murphy hospital recognized her daughter. She also said the walk was nice to recognize the help she will give to other people so that they may live.

By Justin Gonzales
Friday, June 7, 2019

After an Honorable discharge from the Navy in 1991, Veteran Rochelle DeLeon continued to serve her country and community. Typical of her generous nature, DeLeon registered as an organ donor and today, through her organs, she continues to have a positive impact on the lives of others.

In tribute to DeLeon’s selfless decision, she became the first Veteran in the South Texas Veterans Health Care System to receive an Honor Donor Walk.

“She’s going to save a lot of lives. Not only did she serve and protect our country and save lives when she was alive, now she’s going to save other lives now as well,” said Nurse Manager Celida Martinez-Vargas, RN, Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU). “Rochelle is continuing on and her memory is living on.”

More than 130 staff members lined the hallways of the MICU and Operating Room as DeLeon made her final journey with her mother by her side.

Her mother, Irene Estrada, said she is happy the Audie L. Murphy VA Memorial Hospital in San Antonio recognized her daughter this way.

“It’s time to give her peace. She’s still making me proud, even in death,” said Estrada with joy in her voice. “I didn’t want it at first. I thought it would be too hurtful. But when they called me in the morning, I said yes. She should have an honor walk, because she’s going to give to people so they can live, which would be just like her.”

Referring to the care her daughter received while a patient at the Audie L. Murphy VA Memorial Hospital, Estrada said it was excellent and even took the time to complete a Daisy Awards survey.

“She received excellent care here. She was in her own private room, the floors were always clean, there wasn’t stuff lying around all over the place,” said Estrada. “Excellent care, excellent doctors, every one of them came in and introduced themselves and told me what they were going to do. You couldn’t ask for better than that. Top notch.”

Understanding the Honor Donor Walk could take place at any time of the day and on short notice, Estrada let the nurses know that she would not go home so she could hold her daughter one last time.

Martinez-Vargas observed the close bond between mother and daughter.

“You can tell they were very, very close because she was always there. She would hold her hand and tell her that she loved her,” said Martinez-Vargas. “It’s such a beautiful thing. She can continue to live on and give other people the chance at life.”

For more information about organ donation at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, contact Martinez-Vargas, the chairperson of the Organ Donation Committee at (210) 617-5300, ext. 14756.

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