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Rich and Deanna Santana Advocates of Organ Donation

11/04/2015 05:26PM ● Published by David Norby

Photo by Dante Fontana © Style Media Group

In May of 2011, Deanna and Rich Santana got the call every parent fears: their son, 17-year-old high school junior Scott Santana, had been in a car accident while driving home from school. It was raining, and Scott lost control of the car for reasons that remain a mystery. “He didn’t do anything wrong,” Deanna attests. “He wasn’t speeding; he wasn’t texting. It didn’t make sense.” At the hospital, doctors informed the Santanas that their son had suffered a traumatic brain injury. He would not recover. For the Santanas, the decision to donate their son’s organs was an easy one: It was what Scott would have wanted. “He had the pink dot on his driver’s license,” Deanna explains. “We knew he would want to help other people.” 

These days, the Santanas are passionate advocates for organ and tissue donation. Deanna works for Sierra Donor Services (, and she was recently elected to the board of directors of the United Network for Organ Sharing. The couple was also instrumental in the construction of the donor memorial rock at UC Davis Medical Center. Earlier this year, they had the opportunity to meet some of the recipients of their son’s organs—including the man who had received Scott’s heart. “I tell you what,” Rich shares, “You put your head to someone’s chest, and hear your son’s heart beating—there’s nothing better than that. Knowing his legacy still lives on is beyond anything you can buy.”

 — Amber Foster


Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?       

Deanna: Don’t get caught up in the little stuff—it doesn’t matter in the end. Live well and love those around you unconditionally. 

Rich: List your priorities, and be true to yourself. Stay true to your moral compass.

Q: What comes to you naturally? 

Deanna: Laughter. Even during the hard “stuff” laughter is a great cooping tool.

Rich: Creativity.

Q: Favorite humanitarian cause? 

Deanna and Rich: Donate Life.

Q: Best words of wisdom you’ve received?  

Deanna: Let the love outpace your grief.  

Rich: Be a good man—make good choices.

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