Gifts of life: Murdered Bronx teen donates eight organs to seven fortunate recipients
By Larry McShane, Published in the New York Daily News
January 28, 2023 — An innocent Bronx teen, randomly killed by a bullet on a borough street, saved the lives of seven people.
Eight organs from Josue Lopez-Ortega, 15, were donated to the recipients after his shocking fatal shooting, the final act in a too-short life for the youth fondly remembered by family and friends as good kid with a love of basketball.
His devastated foster mother Natalie Campbell, fighting back tears, told the Daily News that she made the decision to share her son’s organs after saying goodbye to Josue at his Lincoln Hospital bedside — giving a new lease on life to an infant and a senior citizen, among others.
The family donated his heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and pancreas after Lopez-Ortega, shot in the head while leaving a South Bronx hoops game, died one day after the still-unsolved Jan. 19 crime. His foster father Hernando Campbell, speaking inside the family’s Bronx home, told The News he was heartbroken and proud of Josue.
“It was a good thing,” the distraught dad said of the organ donations. “Everybody from school called to say how highly they thought of him.”
Leonard Achan, president and CEO of the federally-designated organ procurement organization LiveOnNY, described the slain teen as “an organ donor hero who will live on for generations to come.”
How rare was the multiple donation? A typical donor in the New York area provides three organs, officials said.
“Josue is only the 4th person of approximately 2,400 donors in the last seven years to give the gift of life to so many,” said Achan. “LiveOnNY is humbled and honored to be the stewards of these precious gifts on behalf of Josue and his family.”
The organs went to a septet of fortunate beneficiaries, with LiveOnNY saying recipients will sometimes receive double transplants, like two lungs or two kidneys, and the liver was divided and given to two people.
One of the teen’s kidneys was gifted to an ailing person with ties to his family through a directed donation, officials said. Those receiving the organs live in New York, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, and range in age from an eight-month old baby to a 68 year old.
Lopez-Ortega was walking with a friend outside a Police Athletic League facility that hosted the sporting event when the bullets started flying shortly before 9 p.m., with a second teen surviving a gunshot wound to the leg on Longwood Ave. near Fox St.
“He left for school at noon and said, ‘See you at 7:30, be safe,’” recalled Natalie Campbell, who next saw her mortally-wounded son in a hospital bed. Campbell told The News she had no idea why anyone would target the youth as the city endures a 2023 surge in teen shootings.
Two of the youth’s teachers remembered him fondly, noting how the violent death rattled the local community in Longwood.
“It affected not only the teachers, the kids, but the whole community,” said teacher Yolanda Fontain. “PAL is supposed to be a safe haven for them. There is no hanging out here. We’re not down for violence.”
Teacher Nadine Walker remembered Lopez-Ortega as a nice young man and a friend of her son.
“When I broke the news, he was devastated,” she recalled of their conversation. “It’s disheartening to know we lost a good kid.”
The generous decision to share the teen’s organs and save others in need of a transplant did little to close the wounds of his grieving parents.
“We’re very, very sad,” said Natalie Campbell. “We were very close. He was a lovely little boy.”
This story first ran in the New York Daily News on January 28, 2023.