One Ennis man’s decision to register as an organ donor saved the life of his father and a complete stranger. Nearly one year after a tragic accident took the life of Symon Castillo, 22, his family had the opportunity to hear his beat again.
At the time of Symon's death in July 2017, the Castillo family was already near an emotional defeat, as the father, Nate Castillo, was on the verge of dialysis and in desperate need a kidney.
Three hours away in College Station was Kurt Galey, who was on week three of living off of a heart pump. Galey suffered from an enlarged heart, and his left heart valve did not operate adequately. As he took steps to correct his condition, it only worsened.
After waiting on a transplant list for four years, Galey's name was called. The 59-year-old underwent a heart transplant on July 9, 2017.
A little over one year later and at Galey's request, the Castillo family was united with Symon's beneficiary at the Ennis-based snow cone shop established in the memory of their son — Big Sy's Creations — on Saturday, Aug. 4.
“I wanted to meet the family — what their son gave to me was a blessing, and I wanted them to understand this blessing. I will be a good steward of it,” Galey expressed. “I know the pain they are going through. The parents, daughters, sisters of this young man and I wanted them to feel at ease.”
Before the initial contact with the Castillo family, Galey prayed for the family before and after the surgery even though he had no idea of the circumstances.
“I felt like it was my fault when their son passed away. I felt guilty,” Galey disclosed. “Now, I don’t feel guilty. I feel like this has been a part of life."
On the drive from College Station, Galey worried about one thing — acceptance. “I worried about the family accepting me and hoped they didn’t figure it was my fault about what happened to Symon. I prayed a lot,” he relayed.
At one point during the greeting, the snow cone shop went silent. A few family members touched their ears to Galey’s chest to hear the heart, Symon's heart. Family members, one by one, listened to the heartbeat through a stethoscope. Another instrument with a small speaker attached allowed the entire room to hear the strong beat.
When Nate heard the heartbeat, he said, “It was amazing." As the thumps of the heart circulated through the room, one thought went through Nate’s mind — his son.
“I thought about how proud he would be. I was telling him, ‘welcome home, welcome home. I missed you,’” expressed Nate as he choked up.
Prior to the meeting, Nate thought, "[…] this stranger has some important cargo that means everything to me. And, I would have done anything to meet him today.”
The gathering was an eye opener for Nate. He realized Galey was an honest, humble person, “and I think if Symon had the choice, he’d given it to him. He’s the perfect fit.”
Nate relayed how neither him or Galey suffered from any complications with the heart or kidneys.
See, Nate underwent a kidney transplant, thanks to his son, on July 9, 2017.
During that time, Nate grieved the death of his son while feeling grateful to have his life back. Daily, Nate struggles to find the answers to the questions only God could answer.
“My biggest struggle was the fight with God, and it’s not a test of my faith. I know my faith is strong and I believe in God,” Nate elaborated. “I believe there is a God but my question is, ‘why did he choose to take Symon away from us?’ ‘What did we do to deserve that?’ There’s gotta be an answer to every question, and that’s probably the one answer I will never find.”
The event put a lot of things in perspective for Nate, like taking advantage of the small things. He then pointed to the photographs in the snow cone shop and focused on Symon’s smile in every photo.
Nate then recollected the last memory of he and Symon together. They had a night-time softball game in Waxahachie, drank a couple of beers at the Chili’s afterward and “the last thing I told him was that I loved him. I can honestly say the last words I told him was that I love him,” Nate recalled.
Symon’s mother, Emma Castillo — a born and raise Ennis resident — held onto Galey has his heart thumped. At that time, she internally spoke to Symon, telling him how much she missed him and wished that it were Symon in her arms.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to hear it again and I did,” Emma shared. “The gift they gave us was very special — the bear with the heartbeat in it, so I’ll be able to hear it all the time.”
She then recalled how she would regularly text Symon, expressing her love. Symon was never embarrassed by his mother’s affection. Emma assured Symon was the favorite child. He was the youngest of three with two older sisters.
Emma flashed back to the day Symon disclosed his interest in registering as an organ donor. Due to her upbringing, Emma was not in favor, but now her perspective has changed.
“Well, he took it upon himself to do it and now I’m very thankful he did. Because you never realize how important it is until it happens to you,” Emma shared.
She concluded, “I am very thankful that he [Galey] was willing to meet us. It was a very special moment.”
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450