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Emily Avila

Donor Mother
Fort Worth, Texas

Cassandra “Cassie” Contreras
Organ & Tissue Donor
Dec. 29, 1999 – June 27, 2017

Emily Avila loved watching her daughter dance. Cassie Contreras discovered her passion for the art at a young age in a dance studio with jazz and hip-hop classes. In middle school, Cassie took dance as an elective, and in high school, she made the drill team and continued to dance for three years. On the weekends, she was always attending birthday parties so she could wear her favorite cowboy boots and dance with friends and family.

Cassie was a particularly generous person. She’d go to the store to get a snack for herself and then return with favorite snacks for her family. When she received her driver license, she registered as an organ and tissue donor. She also made sure to tell her mother and grandmother that organ donation was what she would want if anything ever happened to her.

That decision would matter sooner than anyone thought. Cassie passed away after a car accident just a year later, at age 17. Though enduring the paralyzing grief of losing a child, Emily knew what her daughter wanted. Cassie’s heart, lungs, kidneys and liver went on to save five lives.

“It has given me a silver lining in all of it,” Emily said. “I cannot imagine how I would feel if we would have said ‘no.’ It is an amazing feeling knowing that my daughter was able to pass on life to others. She is truly a hero.”  

The following November, Emily was able to meet her daughter’s heart recipient, Sarah Jo Dunwoody from Omaha, Nebraska. Using a stethoscope, she listened to Cassie’s heart beating in Sarah’s chest.

“I got to hear my daughter’s heartbeat again, and that was the best feeling I had since she had passed.”

Last year, Cassie’s family also had the chance to meet her double-lung recipient, Kishor Morbia, who now spreads Cassie’s story in India.

Emily lives and gives in her daughter’s memory. She serves others as a medical assistant for a cardiologist/electrophysiologist and shares her story wherever she can.

“After hearing Cassie’s story, many people have personally told me that they have decided to sign up and become donors. Everyone always thinks about Cassie till this day and how she always encouraged them to be strong, smile each day and live life to the fullest. They truly try to #LiveLikeCassie.”

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Cassie Contreras, organ and tissue donor

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