CANONSBURG (KDKA) — Dean “Burrito” Gillum, 2, died in August 2015 of an accidental drowning.
Dean’s parents, Laura and Paul Gillum of Canonsburg, turned their grief over their son’s unexpected death into the gift of life, when they made the brave decision to donate his organs.
The toddler fell into the family’s backyard swimming pool and later died at UPMC Children’s Hospital.
Paul Gillum, the boy’s father, told KDKA-TV’s Ralph Iannotti, “We named him Dean because it was a short, strong name and you couldn’t shorten it. We ended up calling him Burrito, so that was his nickname, Burrito.”
Laura Gillum said, “We couldn’t ask for his heart to be in a better place.”
After corresponding with his family for months, the Gillum’s this week, for the first time, got a chance to meet the boy who was the recipient of their son’s heart.
Lennon Cureton, of South Carolina, was born with congenital heart disease. He was 6-months-old when he received Dean’s heart.
“It was wonderful knowing that this little boy is so heathy now,” Laura said. “We don’t really feel that it’s not Dean’s heart anymore, it’s Lennon’s heart.”
“It was well worth the wait and the time, nothing but good, positive things from it. We’re glad we did it,” Paul added.
The Gillums have established a nonprofit organization, called “Breathing for Burrito” in their son’s memory. Among other things, it offers free classes on CPR and other life-saving techniques.
The Gillums have long been advocates of organ donation and now that belief is stronger than ever.
Never, they said, have they had second thoughts about donating Dean’s organs.
“We didn’t even think twice about it,” Laura said. “Why would you not want to help someone else? We both had discussed it, if Dean was old enough to understand, he definitely would have wanted us to do this. We did it all for him.”