Kobe Andrei Tejero, 17, was buried last Saturday (August 31).His family donated his corneas to the Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines.

TACLOBAN CITY- The death of Kobe Andrei Tejero,17, may have come as a deep shock to his family but turned out to be a blessing, not only to his family but even to strangers who will receive his eye tissue.
The family of Kobe, as he is fondly called by his family and close friends, donated his corneas to the Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines, just hours after he died on August 20 while confined at the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC) here in the city.
Kobe, who was from Borongan City, sustained major head injury in a road accident on August 15 after he tried to avoid a dog crossing on the street, hitting him seriously on a pavement.
He was on his way to Maydolong town, 15 kms away from Borongan, to meet some of his friends there.
The death of their teenage son, who was a Grade 12 senior high student at the Eastern Samar National Comprehensive High School, was, at first, a shock to them, said his mother Mariso, 47.
“Of course, his death was a big shock to all of us. He was our eldest son. But when we decided to donate his eyes and his other organs, I whispered to him that he would be doing some good (for other people),” the grieving mother said in a phone interview.
It was learned from her that aside from the corneas of her son, the family have also decided to donate his other organs like kidney and heart.
And my family, she not only meant her husband Wilfred and son Brian Emmanuel, 13, but their relatives in both sides who all agreed to the plan.
However, his kidney ‘malfunctioned’ as it stopped producing urine output while he suffered cardiac arrest hours before he died.
His eyes, however, remained ‘healthy’ reason why only his corneas were harvested, Mariso, a computer teacher at the Eastern Samar State University, based in Borongan City, said.
But prior to their decision to donate the corneas of Kobe, they were first approached by a doctor of the EVRMC where there is medical center organ donation committee if they would be willing to donate the organs of their son.
Mariso said that for ‘unknown reason,’ she immediately said yes when she was approached if the family would be willing to become an organ donor.
“I really don’t know why. I immediately said yes when they asked us if we are willing to donate Kobe’s organs like his heart, kidney, and eyes,” she said.
According to her, she and her husband had a serious talk on the matter.
“We prayed about it. And we came to a decision to donate his organs. We consoled ourselves that if we donate Kobe’s organs, there is somebody out there who will benefit his organs who we can help extend his or his life. My husband and later our relatives agreed with me,” she said.
She added: “He was a very loving and helpful son. I knew he was also happy that we donated his (corneas) to help others who are in need,” Mariso added.
Mariso recalled that while she was pregnant with Kobe, she was looking for a blood donor and she was lucky to found one.
A team of doctors from Chong Hua Hospital, based in Cebu City, came to the EVRMC on August 20, just hours after Kobe’s death to harvest the corneas.
Mariso said that the doctors started the removal of her son’s corneas at 6 am and were done in less than an hour.
The doctors, after the operations, showed them the corneas of Kobe placed in a specialized small jar.
“We were just happy to see Kobe’s corneas. There were no fear or sadness. We kept on saying ‘Hi Kobe’,” she said.
The corneas were brought on August 21 to the Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines (EBFP) based in Ermita, Metro Manila.
This selfless deed of the family of Kobe was lauded by the EBFP as he became the first ever eye donor from the region.
Yna Orfinada, senior procurement transplant coordinator of the EBFP, said that they were just happy that the family of Kobe decided to donate the corneas of their teenage son.
“Of course we are happy. We hope that this will further encourage others to become organ donors,” she said in a phone interview.
According to her, at present, there are about 450 persons who are waiting for corneas donation but only 30 have been enlisted as donors.
Orfinada said that there is an already an identified recipient on Kobe’s corneas with the operation slated in the next few weeks.
She said that the corneas should be transplanted to the prospective donor within 14 days after they were harvested from the donor.
“We have already an identified beneficiary on Kobe’s corneas. But there is a confidentiality rule which we cannot divulge the name of the recipient,” Orfinada said.
She added that this rule, however, could be waived if the beneficiary and the surgeon who undertook the operation would agree for the recipient and the family of the donor to meet.
Mariso had expressed her desire to personally see the recipients of her son’s corneas.
She said that she does not feel any regrets on their decision to have Kobe’s corneas donated and no longer feel ‘any pains’ on the death of her son.
In fact, she added, organ donation would now become part of her advocacy as she now considers herself as an organ donor.
“Of course, I will not just go out there and asked for the people to donate their organ. I will just explain to them the beauty of donating our organs so others who are in need would live,” she said.
The mother also said that she has yet to know anyone from the city expressing opposition on their decision to have Kobe’s corneas donated.
She added that the outpouring of support from their friends, and even strangers, were proof that they were in agreement on their decision.
Kobe’s girlfriend, Luzel Antonette Hernane, expressed the support of the family donating his organ.
“I’m sure, he too, would agree to have his corneas donated to somebody. He was just a loving and caring person,” she said in a private messaging interview.
Orfinada said that lack of awareness on the advantages of organ donation, personal belief and religion are some of the factors why organ donation in the country appears to be taboo with only very few willing to donate their organs.
“That is why, we will strengthen further our campaign on organ donation in the country and we are thankful to Kobe and his family as this will help in our campaign,” she said.
Kobe was buried on August 31 at the public cemetery in Borongan City. (JOEY A. GABIETA)