Alexis Sloan, Ashley Owens, Meghan Kingsley and Vicky Davis flew to Chicago in November to thank the family of Francisco "Paco" Rodriguez for saving their lives.
Each woman had received organs from Rodriguez, a Chicago boxer who collapsed moments after a fight and later died.
Born with a genetic heart condition, Sloan, 26, of Pennsylvania, had received his heart. Kingsley, 25, of Maryland, and an accomplished swimmer, had days to live before she received his liver. Davis, 57, of Pennsylvania, was given one of his kidneys and his pancreas. And 24-year-old Owens of Pennsylvania had gotten his lungs after nearly losing a lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis.
Alex Rodriguez, Paco's brother, said he remembered the decision to donate organs.
"I remember just looking over to my sister-in-law and telling her, 'I think it'd be very disappointing to see all the hard work that Paco did to keep his body in the shape that he kept it, his heart to let it stop beating, and like, I think you should give someone else a chance now that he doesn't have one,'" Rodriguez said.
'His Body Just Went Limp'
Paco Rodriguez was a proud Mexican-American growing up in Chicago. He'd followed his father and older brothers into the fight game and became a five-time Golden Gloves champion as "El Nino Azteca."
On Nov. 20, 2009, he was fighting in his first title shot as a pro in Philadelphia.
But by the 10th round, though, the 25-year-old husband and father was defenseless. The fight was eventually stopped.
"I just kept screaming at him," cornerman George Hernandez said, "and he wouldn't answer. ... His body just went limp."
His brain swelling and bleeding, Rodriguez underwent three hours of emergency surgery. His wife, Sonia, rushed to the hospital.
"I didn't even know he was in a coma," she said. "[The doctors] said, 'We're sorry but there was no possibility of him making it.'"
Two nights after collapsing in the ring, Rodriguez was declared brain dead. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the medical examiner's office determined that he'd died from a "full-blunt impact injury" and ruled his death an accident.
Three hours later, the Gift of Life donor program approached the Rodriguez family about donating his organs.
Rodriguez said her husband wanted to be a hero. "He would always tell me that and so I said, 'You know, if that was his goal in life then you know we're going to do it for him,'" she said.
'She Wouldn't Be Alive'
With the assistance of Gift of Life and ESPN, the four women flew to Chicago to meet the Rodriguezes.
Paco Rodriguez's daughter, Ginette, 17 months old, felt the beating of his heart; now in the body of Sloan. Kingsley's mother, Sharon, said she was indebted to the boxer.
"From one mother to another mother," she said through tears to Paco Rodriguez's mother, Maria, "nobody could understand it but yourself. I thank you for the gift that you've given us because without him, she wouldn't be alive, either."
"How can you thank someone for a gift like that," Davis said. "You can't. It's hard to say thank you."
Sonia Rodriguez said, "It's hard to accept that he's gone but, because of him, other people live. A piece of him is still there, so that makes me happy."