PATERSON, N.J. – Juan Garcia’s job isn’t easy.
The family support coordinator for the NJ Sharing Network travels across the state to meet with and counsel families facing sudden grief.
The Paterson man is there for families whose loved ones may be pronounced brain dead. He guides families through trauma.
Whatever a family needs, Garcia is there.
“If I were in that situation, I would want someone to be there for me, so I see it from that perspective."
There are more than 5,000 people in New Jersey waiting for life-saving organ or tissue transplants, said Garcia, whose organization helps coordinate donations.
“One person potentially can save up to seven lives through organ donation, and through tissue it could be even more than 50 people. Pretty amazing,” he said.
But whether families give consent to donate is irrelevant, Garcia said. He's got other jobs to do.
"I’ve sometimes even gotten coffee for them or tea," Garcia said, "just to make them as comfortable as they can be in such difficult times.”
Garcia brings families together in the midst of tragedy.
He recalled the way the family of a 5-year-old boy was able to put aside its differences after the youngster drowned in a bathtub.
The outcome was remarkable.
“Other small children were able to receive the 5-year-old's organs, and it was just amazing to see the beauty of what coming together can really do,” he said.
Garcia is still in contact with the family, and many others.
“When they see that you are sincere, you’re empathetic and that you are really there to support them, they make you a part of their family."
The NJ Sharing Network works with hospitals throughout the state, including Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, Hackensack University Medical Center, St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center.