Vincent Battipaglia’s family feared his addiction would take his life.
But after the worst happened this past October, they found something to give them hope, they said Friday.
The 27-year-old Somers Point man’s organs helped save two others people’s lives.
The family was honored yesterday during a ceremony for the Gift of Life Donor Program at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center’s City Campus.
The hospital is one of 131 in the South Jersey/eastern Pennsylvania/Delaware region that makes up the largest donor program in the nation, said President and CEO Howard Nathan.
He credited “families who say yes at the worst times of their lives.”
The opioid epidemic has tripled the number of donations, Nathan said. Last year, 540 families said yes, resulting in 1, 412 transplants. One of those families was the Battipaglias.
It was a fitting tribute to a man who always tried to help others, while not being able to find the way to help himself out of a nearly decade-long battle with drug addiction, his mother said.
“He always wanted to save everyone else,” Trish Anderson said of her son. “He wasn’t ready to be saved.”
Greg Battipaglia had always been able to help his younger brother through his problems. But, in addiction, the family was powerless.
“It was tragic,” he told those gathered at Friday’s ceremony. “It was heart-wrenching for us to watch and for us not to be able to do anything about it. I think that was the hardest part because we tried.”
But on Oct. 27, three days after Vincent was taken to the hospital unconscious from a drug overdose, the family made the decision to let him go, and to let his organs be used for others.
That day, a “Donate Life” flag was raised at the hospital in Vincent Battipaglia’s honor. It’s something AtlantiCare started to honor the lives of the donors, and who appreciation to the families.
The flag is signed by those who tended to the patient, then flies for 24 hours before being taken down and sent to the family.
Security Officer Raymond Ford was honored Friday for his handling of the flag-raising ceremony. Battipaglia’s family didn’t remember his name, but did recall his “bear hugs” and how “it affected him as much as it did us,” Anderson said.
And while Battipaglia’s family hasn’t met the two people who now have his organs, they did meet organ recipient
Joseph Pratt, a Vietnam veteran who received new lungs in 2013. Before that, he could barely walk 10 steps without needing to rest. He was put on the organ list after his COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease got so bad he had a point where he couldn’t move or breath.
“I felt like I was drowning,” Pratt said.
Six months after his transplant, he ran the Donor Dash in Philadelphia, making it halfway up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. He would have made it the whole way, he joked, but his daughter worriedly stopped him.
Pratt said he hasn’t met his donor family, knowing only that the 26-year-old man died in a car crash. But every donor family he meets, he adopts as his own.
“To know that he saved lives in losing his, it’s just the greatest gift,” said Battipaglia’s aunt, Jeanne McNamee. “It makes it more bearable.”