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Vallarta man donates organs and becomes a hero

By Milton Colmenares

May 24, 2023

Heroes don’t always wear suits with capes or have superpowers; sometimes they’re just regular people with such a big heart that they do whatever it takes to help, even if it means risking their lives.

Sergio Antonio Yerena Tapia, also known as “Popeye” to his friends, is the perfect example. Popeye, a Puerto Vallarta native, will be remembered for his final noble deed.

We spoke with Dulce, his wife, to learn more about him, his qualities, and how they allowed a tragedy to become a source of hope for many people. She explained how they met:

I met him 6 years ago at a dance. There were two other girls and one of them asked me, ‘hey, where is your husband?’, but I had just met him. From there on, I was “his wife.” A few months later, he sought me out because I had a problem with an operation and we started to go out.

He had a strong character because of his childhood. He was abused, his mother died when he was 15 years old, she died of kidney cancer, and I think that motivated him to become a donor, because when he tried to donate, he was a minor and they wouldn’t let him.

Sergio had told Dulce and her parents on several occasions that he planned to donate his organs if something ever happened to him.

We’re not sure if it was fate, but Sergio was unequivocal about it.

He had an aneurysm; it came from a tumor in his head due to a blow he received years ago. He had stress and it was like the trigger, the stress, and he just fainted. He was working out and the doctors told me that with the force he exerted, that’s what caused his brain veins to burst.


Dulce and Sergio’s children, as well as his fellow Fénix de la Baha drivers, tried everything to get him treatment. The best option was to send him to Guadalajara, where he was declared brain dead.


Popeye gets his wings


Those were trying times… until the unthinkable happened. It was then that Popeye got his pair of wings.

A doctor approached me and told me that part of Sergio’s body was working but his brain was not, that there was a donation organization, and we agreed that he should donate. He wouldn’t recover, so it was OK because that’s what he would have liked.

In Mexico, a person can decide to become an organ donor in the event of an accident. However, when that moment comes, the decision must pass through the filter of the family, who make the final decision.

That is why Sergio’s case is special, because he was always very clear: he wanted to be a donor, so his family supported his wish. In the end, Popeye was able to donate skin, bones, corneas and kidneys, giving hope to other people.

Dulce, Sergio's wife

“I am proud, I feel proud of what he did, that until the end he helped people, that was what he loved,” Dulce said, her voice breaking.

Although she still mourns his death, his wife is relieved to have fulfilled Sergio’s wish, and while she will never meet the people he helped with the donation, she wishes them well in this second chance that Popeye has given them.

Sergio Antonio Yerena Tapia, Popeye, a Vallarta hero who should be remembered forever.


Original story published by Tribuna de la Bahía.





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