Philadelphia family honors son's wish to be organ donor, saving 3 lives

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia has long led the nation in organ and tissue donations, but there's always a need for more.

In fact, every 10 minutes, another person is added to the waiting list.

Just a month after leaving Philadelphia for a job in Virginia, Bobby Barrilli Jr. came home to visit. His family wanted to celebrate Bobby's 29th birthday and his dad's successful medical procedure.

Bobby also looked forward to riding his motorcycle again.

But that night he got into an accident and was airlifted to Temple University Hospital with 2 broken legs. The fractures triggered a life-threatening complication.

"It was a long bone disease, where his, uh, the fat emboli cut off the oxygen to his lungs," said his mother, Eileen Barrilli.

Soon, it was clear he wouldn't recover.

"I had two doctors that actually cried. They tried everything," Eileen said.

Bobby's family knew he wanted to be an organ donor, so the Gift of Life donor program was notified.

Patricia Gardner, a trauma nurse at Temple, often helps coordinate the process.

"We do have a meeting with them, with Gift of Life, where we discuss everything about what is going to happen, what the, you know, where do we go from here," Gardner said. "We answer any questions that they may have."

Gardner often confronts one misconception: that being a potential organ donor changes a person's care.

"Organ donation designation doesn't affect the way I care, I or my colleagues care, for patients," she said.

"The Temple doctors, the nursing staff couldn't have been more supportive," Eileen said.

Bobby's liver and kidneys gave three people second chances.

In the 10 years since Bobby died, the Barrilli's have been in touch with the recipients, and are grateful they could help them.

"Bobby still lives on in a small way, but a big way for other families," Eileen said. "He's helped other families heal.

The Barillis volunteer to cook at the Gift of Life House, where they get to meet other recipients.

They also continue to encourage others to sign up as organ donors.
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