Colorado liver donor and recipient receive national honor

DENVER — A little boy from Montrose and a former bartender from Longmont were honored by the American Liver Foundation. The organization named Manny Estrada and Aaron Whalen its 'National Champion' and 'National Hero’.

Estrada, 8, was in dire need of a new liver. He was born with a rare disease that was destroying his liver.

“He would kind of compare himself to other kids his age and ask why they weren’t getting sick and why he was getting sick,” Manny’s mother, Karina Estrada explained.

That’s when a stranger, who would eventually become a dear family friend walked into their lives.

“It just felt good to a part of the process,” explained Aaron Whalen.

Whalen, 33, decided to donate part of his liver. The recipient: Manny Estrada.

"I just saw Manny running around like a kid is supposed to run around,” Whalen said. "And I broke down a little bit. I was like, ‘This is why I did this - to see him at full energy - a kid being a kid’.”

Whalen has since moved to Greenville, South Carolina. Estrada lives in Montrose.

The two became good buddies and keep in contact on a regular basis.

They both urge folks to consider being a donor. To learn how you can donate, click here.

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