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Jesica Santillan's Tragic Story Turns Into Legacy Of Service To Others

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LOUISBURG, N.C. β€” Ten months ago Monday, the Triangle grieved as a Louisburg teenager died after an organ transplant went bad.

Jesica Santillian had received a heart and lungs from a donor with a different blood type and never recovered. She died Feb. 22 after a second transplant tried to override the damage of the first.

Since then, Jesica's family has tried to write another chapter in Jesica's life -- a happier one.

People may never forget Jesica's story.

Which of these do you think was the biggest local news event of 2003? Clay Aiken 2nd in American Idol Meg Scott Phipps Scandal Mike Peterson Trial Roy Williams To UNC Hurricane Isabel Iraq War Coverage Kinston Plant Fire John Edwards' Run For White House Jesica Santillan Story Other (Tell us which one in our

At 17, she desperately needed a heart-and-lung transplant. Doctors thought they had found a suitable donor, only to give her organs that did not match her blood type. Doctors tried corrective surgery, but Jesica's body buckled under the stress.

"I take responsibility for those errors, and I take complete responsibility for the team," Dr. James Jaggers, who conducted the surgery, said back in February.

Now, nearly a year after losing her daughter, Magdalena Santillan has become a voice for organ donation.

"For me, she was the best the world had to offer," Jesica's mother said in Spanish. "I want to send a message to everyone. Helping sick children is now my goal."

Another big part of Jesica's legacy is her foundation, Jesica's Hope Chest, which aims to help the 2,000 children waiting for an organ donation in the United States.

"She always wanted to be famous," Magdalena said of Jesica.

So, a story that was rooted in tragedy is blooming into a legacy of service to others.

"Give the most precious gift of all," Magdelena said. "Give the gift of life. Gracias."

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