Mom of East Bay organ donor reunited with grateful recipient

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SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- The mother of a young Contra Costa County woman who became a heart and kidney donor when she died three years ago was reunited this week with the man who received her daughter's organs.

Tom Goss, 54, attended a reception Thursday at San Francisco's California Pacific Medical Center to express his gratitude for the life giving gifts he received.

"A gift was given to me and I need to take it and do the best I can with it," he said.

Kate Hopkins was an athletic college student from Martinez who died during a skateboarding accident in Yosemite National Park three years ago. She was just 20 years old.

"I will always carry the grief of losing my daughter," said her mother, Jackie Hopkins. "But my intent is to balance the grief with the good she did."

Two years before she died, Kate decided she wanted to donate her organs in case something happened but she never thought her decision would have an immediate impact on her life or anyone else's. When Kate passed, Goss was very sick, suffering from congenital heart failure and kidney disease.

The Sacramento resident, who is now 54 years old, needed heart and kidney transplants but never expected the donor would be so young. 

"I regretted being the recipient of that," he said. "I felt bad about it."

But Kate's mother said he should not harbor any regrets.

"I said there's no reason for you to feel guilty," she said. "You didn't do anything wrong. Kate didn't do anything wrong. We don't get to choose what happens to us in life."

Goss is extremely fortunate.

According to records from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 22 people die every day in the U. S. while waiting for a suitable organ donor.

"Our waiting list in Northern California is longer than anywhere in the U.S.," said Dr. Nikole Neidlinger, who performed Goss' kidney transplant at California Pacific Medical Center. "We have one-sixth of the waiting list in California."

Said Goss: "There's a reason I'm supposed to be here. We have five children. I'm very grateful for that."

Jackie Hopkins said she hopes others will consider organ donations in order to save lives.

By KTVU reporter Rob Roth.