The kindergartner at Wayne Trail Elementary School loved hippos, cupcakes and anything pink. When she learned the lyrics to a song, she would dance around the house and sing it over and over again. She was a ballerina with a Boston accent who loved to laugh.
“She was always laughing and always happy. She was a little girl, but she had a deep, big belly laugh,” Elena’s mom, Kelly, said. “She had an infectious sense of humor and made people laugh all the time.”
She had an old soul, and Kelly said Elena seemed more mature than other kids her age. Elena jumped at the opportunity to distribute snacks and water to tornado victims in Millbury; she made frequent visits to retirement homes to spread joy to the residents; and she donated her bouncy brown curls to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to children with cancer.
“She was an amazing, loving, giving little girl,” Kelly said.
Kelly remembers the morning of June 9, 2010. Elena was lying on the floor with her 8-year-old brother, Alex. The inseparable siblings had their feet up on the TV stand. But later, that seemingly normal day turned into a nightmare when Elena was in a car accident.
Kelly and her husband, Monny, were told that their daughter passed away. In the midst of their sudden grief, they found the strength to ask if their daughter could save lives through organ donation.
“After the doctors told us we weren’t going to be able to have Elena anymore, we wanted to try to help someone else,” Kelly said.
That day, Elena forever changed the lives of two people through organ donation. Her kidneys allowed a 40-year-old father of four to spend more time with his family. Her liver saved a 13-year-old girl, who now has her whole life ahead of her.
Monny and Kelly have had written correspondence with Elena’s liver recipient and her family, and the similarities they uncovered were remarkable.
“The liver recipient chose ‘Elena’ as her name in Spanish class. There’s no way she could have known because that was before the accident,” Kelly said.
It didn’t stop there. The day of her liver transplant, she asked her dad to find her a hippo Pillow Pet. Her dad thought it was an odd request and was amazed to learn that Elena collected hippos – they were her favorite animal.
And after her liver transplant, she chose “Elena” as her Confirmation name.
“At the hospital, we weren’t sure if we did the right thing by donating Elena’s organs. But every time we get a letter from Elena’s recipients, it reconfirms that it was the right decision. Two people got a second chance at life because of it,” Monny said.
Monny and Kelly have received several pictures of Elena’s liver recipient. Two of their favorites are from a homecoming dance and when she made the cheerleading squad.
“So many of the things this young lady is doing are things that Elena was into,” Monny said. “It gives us a sense of solace from the horrific tragedy we went through.”
Monny and Kelly are comforted knowing that their hilarious, kind, strong-willed Elena is loved by her recipients and their families, and that her generous spirit continues to shine.
“Through organ donation, we get to see Elena live on, and that’s the best thing we could ask for,” Monny said.