This is the heartbreaking moment a Navy dad kissed his son goodbye – so he could donate his organs and save three lives before he died.
Leopauld Sanchez, one, and his family were in a horror head-on smash which killed three people in the other car.
The toddler and his family were rushed to hospital but little Leopauld was left with devastating injuries to his spine and brain.
His skull was detached from his spine and, after a risky surgery and nearly three months of fighting, never regained the ability to breathe on his own.
He fought to survive for two months but his devastated parents, Paul and Ayie Sanchez, 43 and 39, were told he was brain dead and could not be saved.
They made the brave decision to allow his organs to be donated to strangers – including two babies.
A moving video shows Paul and Ayie saying goodbye to their little hero before surgery, with Navyman Paul standing up out of his wheelchair to give his son a salute.
His heart was given to a six-month-old boy in San Diego, his liver to a three-month-old girl from Stanford and his kidneys were donated to an adult from San Francisco.
Paul, from Lemoore, California, USA, said: “Leopauld lived a short life, but in that short period he was able to lead a wonderful life full of sharing, love and miracles.
“When he was still in the hospital, we kept on praying about miracles for him but now we realise that the miracle was right in front of us, which is him,
“He himself is the miracle that gives hope for the three lives that can continue on and live, and it’s wonderful.
“I will keep talking about him and share the wonderful miracle story, and to raise awareness of organ donations.”
The family was travelling back to their home from seeing friends on November 15 2020, and were only 20 miles away when they crashed.
A driver travelling in the other direction swerved into their lane resulting in a head-on collision with their minivan, they said.
Paul, Ayie and children Neopaulus, eight, and Shapriana, five, were left left disoriented and with minor injuries, but Leopauld was unresponsive.
Other drivers pulled over to help, including a paediatric nurse who performed CPR until the emergency services arrived around ten minutes later.
Leopauld and Neopaulus were airlifted to hospital, while his parents and sister followed in an ambulance.
The toddler’s skull was detached from his spine, his brain had been damaged, and he even flatlined on arrival at the hospital but doctors managed to revive him.
Paul said: “We can’t imagine his suffering and we couldn’t even think of our own physical injuries at the time.
“It was all emotional pain – we kept praying for miracles for him.”
The doctors warned Paul that his son would likely not survive, and needed intensive surgery to reattach his skull which most hospitals would not attempt.
Paul said: “While were still in the hospital after our surgeries they called a family meeting, and we had to be wheeled their in our hospital beds.
“The doctors told us that Leopauld’s injuries were so severe that he might not survive and there was nothing we could do.
“They said he might not be able to breathe on his own or walk again.
“They kept asking us if we wanted to let him go in peace and pull the plug, but we said no, we weren’t going to give up on our babies and we still believe in miracles.”
The rest of the family were out of hospital after a month, but Leopauld was so fragile he could have died just by being moved.
After weeks of agonising waiting, Paul was told that the Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera would perform the surgery.
He was carefully transferred in late November and after his surgery, the little boy started to show signs of improvement.
The father said: “My wife was always there with him, every day, and saw that he was able to open his eyes and move them and make facial expressions, like crying but with no sound,
“A respiratory therapist said he was showing sings that he was breathing on his own, so they started to gradually take him off the ventilator,
“We were happy that this was the miracle we were praying for.”
However his health quickly started to decline again, his heart rate and blood pressure were fluctuating rapidly and he was having problems digesting his food.
A brain scan showed there was fluid on Leopauld’s brain, and the Sanchez family were called in to the hospital.
The doctors said Leopauld was brain dead and could not recover, on January 15.
The Sanchez family were given some time with their son in privacy, and a social worker approached the grieving parents to ask them if they were open to organ donation.
Paul recalled: “He said there was a possibility your son could save eight lives, and before he even asked me, without hesitation I told him I would be saying yes.
“He lived a short life but knowing a part of him would be living in someone else would be another miracle.”
Hospital staff worked tirelessly to find suitable recipients for Leopauld’s organs.
Leopauld was taken into the operating room to have his vital organs removed on January 18, after a final weekend with his family by his side.
Paul kissed his son’s forehead and stood up out of his wheelchair to give him a salute as he went.
He told him he was proud of him and that he was a hero.
Medics flew from San Diego to collect the heart, and surgeons with Leopauld discussed the transplant with the waiting surgeons via video link.
The Sanchez family are looking forward to meeting the recipients in person one day.
Paul said that police are still investigating what caused the collision near Kettleman City, but that neither the driver or two passengers in the other car survived.
You can donate towards the Sanchez family’s medical and burial costs at www.gofundme.com/f/love-and-support-for-the-sanchez-family