Donor Family Voices Archive
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From the Winter 2010 issue of For Those Who Give and Grieve.

Some donor families honor their grief by reaching out to others. From creating non-profits to changing legislation, they’re ordinary people like us, trying to make good come from something tragic. Do you have an inspiring story to share?

Little did I know that I would have needed his kidney because of renal failure and cancer. I am in remission at this time and who kows how long that will last. I could have used his and been with him always and forever. Now it is in my heart and soul.

Posted by: Sue Dorn

My beloved husband died almost 5 years ago and not a day goes by that I don't think of him. I miss him every day of my life. When I had cancer or should say haveit that I know he wants me to carry on. We donated his organs, skin, tissue and anything that we could. I love him very much and wanted him to carry on in someone else to be a better person, like he was. You never lose that special love and he wa truly my soul mate. FOREVER and ALWAYS.

Posted by: Sue Dorn

Gift of Life Family Transport

Our sixteen-year-old daughter Amanda Sue Forsyth left a legacy of love behind when she donated her organs after a car accident took her life on the 11th of June, 2006. Her gift of life made it possible for seven people to continue theirs, and in this spirit our family wishes to continue her legacy.

When tragedy strikes those around you, our first reaction is to offer assistance of any kind to those in need. When Amanda’s accident occurred, the NYC Fire Department stepped in and provided 24 hour transportation services for our family: a gesture that made all the difference for a family suffering the devastating loss of a child. This service allowed for our family to be with her as much a possible during her hospitalization, relieving us the stressful task of driving during our grief. Our family believes this service should be available to all families going through similar ordeals and as a result, have created a charity to continue this service.

Gift of Life Family Transport provides families of organ donors in the New York Metropolitan area with 24 hour transport during the days awaiting the transplant teams arrival (a process that could last several days). Drivers are volunteers from New York Police and Fire Departments. 100% of donations will go to the Fund - all of which will go towards the purchase of a vehicle, insurance, tolls, gas and maintenance. We are backed and supported by the New York Organ Donor Network as an official service to families in need. In April 2009 we proudly put forth the vehicle, a 2009 Chevrolet Suburban (7 passenger) The Gift of Life Family Transport Vehicle, and have helped many families to date. We look forward to continuing this service in memory of our daughter Amanda.

Posted by: Diane & Warren Forsyth

To all who have given the gift of life, or anticipate the same. A very special Thank You for giving the gift of life. I am a recipient of a Kidney from my Father back in 1985, as well as three (3) Cadaver Transplants in 1990, (a 12yr success) 2008, unfortunately (failed) and Sept. 28th 2009, a huge success. I was able to thank my Father in person, now I need to thank you all for giving this a lot of thought. I am living proof of the success of "your" gift of life. May GOD Bless you all.

Posted by: Herman Borgerding

Our son Andy was an autistic 24 year old young man with many challenges in his life. Despite these challenges, he was blessed with an ability to reach out and touch many lives with his big smile and special qualities. After meeting Andy, he was someone you couldn't forget. He taught us to take notice of the important things in life. Andy died tragically in March of 2004 in an accident, but his spirit remains with everyone who knew him.

When Andy was 12 years old, his brother Jon joined the Air Force and left home for the first time. Jon and Andy had a close relationship and Jon was concerned that leaving would be detrimental to Andy. The night before Jon left, he gave Andy a big brown bear that had belonged to him. He asked Andy to take care of his bear while he was gone and the bear would be his friend. From that time on the bear was known as "Jon Bear".

Andy never separated from Jon Bear; he couldn't go to sleep without his bear. The bear became his comfort and security; a real part of his brother he could hold on to. Jon Bear was used as a part of Andy's therapy programs at John Hopkins Hospital, went on all vacations and became a very important part of Andy's life.

When Andy died, Jon Bear remained by his side. Anyone that knew Andy knew the significance of the bear. That simple act of brotherly love had brought comfort, joy, security and love to a young man for many years.

In memory of Andy and his bear, family and friends have created a project called "Andy Bear". We distribute "Andy Bears" to individuals in need of hope, comfort, secutity, love and friendship. We make distributions to the police and sheriff departments, group homes, nursing homes, fire and rescue squads, social services,hospitals, shelters, churches and individuals in need.

Thank you for allowing us to share Andy's story.

Posted by: Carolyn and David Wilks

We lost our 19-year-old son on Memorial Day weekend of 1994 in a tragic accident caused by a careless driver. Until then we had very little perception of how other people's decisions could impact our lives, this time in the worst possible way. When asked about donating his organs, the decision was made easier when I remembered he had decided to be an organ donor when he obtained his driver's license in high school. As a result, 5 other lives were mercifully extended. We came to look upon this as the "silver lining in the black cloud" which had visited us. Afterwards we found so much comfort and wisdom in dealing with our grief through our associations with LifePoint-SC and the local South Carolina office of the Kidney Foundation. Attending the Transplant Games was particularly inspirational and I found myself wanting to do more for the cause while honoring my son. Our state at that time had many specialty vehicle license plates but none promoting organ donation. I decided I would take this as a personal challenge to get a license plate adopted and, with the help of Donate Life South Carolina, was successful in getting it "on the road" in the summer of 2008. I can't describe the feeling I get when I see one of the plates on a car; it's almost like the pride a father feels when his son is born healthy. And the cause that it benefits is so worthy: the cause which gives us donor families silver linings.

Posted by: Ed Billings

I lost my long-time companion on March 1, 2009 to a massive heart attack that he had in his sleep. It was so hard finding him dad without any warning. To add to this, on May 7th (Mother's Day weekend) I got that call that every parent worries about. My son John had been murdered. He was registered as an organ donor without my knowledge. This brought me comfort in spite of hearing from the operating room that they had harvested all of the organs and other things that could be taken call at 9:00 am on Mother's Day morning. To add to this, I had to make cremation arrangements on Mondy May 10th, my birthday. I was numb from all of the things happening. I had to hold myself together for my 7 yr old granddaughter that I was raising (my son's child). The numness has lasted until today and probably will continue until I am sure that my granddaughter is okay. I know that we could not spend that first Christmas at home so we went to another of my sons to celebrate. I also had taken my granddaughter shopping for things that we might have bought for them and found a homeless veteran to give the items to sugh as underwear, socks, snacks. We have continued this for all the years since. I helps me keep them alive in my mind and the gifts go to someone who really needs th em.

Posted by: Marilyn Logan

I lost my wonderful mother, LaVera, on April 12, 2008. I was unsure about organ donation since her neurological illness had ravaged her body, but I eventually consented to it. I had no idea how many people could be helped until I recieved information telling me that her donations had helped 19 recipients. I believe my mother would be very happy knowing she helped that many people by giving the most precious gift of all... the "gift of life."

Posted by: Debbie Hinkley

We never know where our life journey will take us. Out of a horrible tragedy came the enlightenment of how fragile our lives are and how we can make a difference in the lives of others. My daughter, Susan J. Perkins, age 34, was the victim of a crime and died from her injuries on September 1, 2004. She had made known her wishes to be an organ donor. Her liver and both kidneys were given to three individuals. Through the opporutinities given to me by Translife, a donor service in Winter Park, Florida, I have been fortunate to find hope and healing by publically telling Susan's story and educating people about the importance of organ donation. As a Donor Mom, I wanted to help other donor family members like myself find that hope and healing. On September 1, 2008, the fourth anniversary of Susan's death, I initiated The "Susan Perkins Fund" to be used exclusively for the well being of donor families through Translife Family Services. I was honored to make the first contribution and through the efforts of fundraising and personal contributions, the fund has the potentioal to grow and help current and future donor families heal. The fund supports donor family workshops and programs designed to increase education and donor designation. When donor family members are given the opportunity to learn what a huge difference their loved ones gift has made, there is no measurement for the outreach this knowledge can have on our society. For me, Susan's wonderful gifts of life and their unmeasured effects on many families have been my rays of sunshine and hope. My desire and passion is to give others the opportunity to feel the same in their life journey.

Posted by: Bobbie Boyer

In January, 2006 my beautiful 39 year old daughter, Lorin, chose to end her life. She had battled depression and addiction problems for many years, which to most people was difficult to comprehend. She was very bright (registered nurse) and multi-talented in sports, music, and art.) She had two children, a loving family, and everything to live for. It wasn't meant to be. We had discussed organ donation, and she, being in the medical field, was very much in favor of this. In spite of our tremendous feelings of pain and grief, we were somehow comforted with the prospects she could be an organ donor. The people from LifeCare could not have been more compassionate and kind at what was the worst time of our lives. I am so happy to report that all organs (lungs, kidneys, liver, and heart) were successful. We have received cards, pictures, and letters from each organ recipient. We were so happy to have had the opportunity to make something positive out of this terrible tragedy.

Posted by: Paula Fabello

My son Evin was born with a heart problem and received a heart transplant when he was 15. Evin and I became a part of the Washington Regional Transplant Community's speakers bureau and he started Students for Organ and Tissue Donation on the James Madison University Campus while a student there. In March of 2007 he passed away. There was no question about donation and he was able to provide 2 people with the gift of sight. To honor my son I continue to work with
WRTC as a part of their speakers bureau to encourage organ donation.

Posted by: Carla Shoap

Yes I do have a story I like to share.

Posted by: Sonia Santa

I had lost my son on December 10,2007 . I had recieved that dreaded call at 4:40 am, it was my daughter, Erika. Telling me to get to the hospital it was Chris. He has head injuries. That is the worst call any parent can get. Chris is my first and only son. There are stories about what happened. There are now only 3 people who know what happened.....The driver, the other kid, and God.
Anyways, when I went to the ICU in the emergency room...there was my son....Blood dripping out of his left ear. OMG...How could this happen to my son. The doctors and nurses tried everything to help my son. They had done brain tests on him to see if any response...THERE WERE NONE !! I pleaded with him and God to help him. The doctors has pronounced him brain dead on December 10th. We took him off of the resperator on Dec 11th and donated his organs thru the GIFT OF LIFE. After Chris' death we have Chris Morin Memorial golf outting every year in september and we have people asking questions regarding organ donation.Also, I volunteer for the Gift of Life to help me cope with my sons death.

Posted by: Barb Bass

On July 4th 2007, i lost my youngest daughter Jalina who was 5 months and 2 days old. I lost her after doctors declared her brain dead, there were people waiting to talk to me about organ donation and at first i could not believe they were asking me but i'am so glad they did and that i decided to go ahead with it, i know her heart went to a newborn baby boy in utah i believe and i received a letter from them stating he was in great health which brings more joy to my heart than anyone could believe because she lives on, also she helped a 2 year old boy who is now free insulin shots, she's a true hero to all of us and i tell everyone that donation is worth it!

Posted by: Genie Porter

My colleague of 20 years at the University of Kansas, Fr. Jerry Spencer, received a kidney transplant earlier this year from a 30-year-old woman. He looks so healthy now, the best I've seen him look in 3 years. He is like so many donor recipients that I have talked with over the years deeply appreciative of the gift of a life and knows there are not enough words to say "thank you" to the loved ones of the donor and to the donor for their great gift.

Posted by: Chaplain Jennie Malewski

My son Dixon was killed in an ATV accident on June 19th, 2009. His father and I decided to let him be an organ donor. He was able to donate one lung, both kidneys, his liver and pancreas. His heart had been bruised during cpr and wasn't usable. We also donated his tissue, bones, veins, skin and corneas. Pretty much everything they could take we gave. Since then my family and I have been on a crusade to educate others about donation. We have a group on facebook called The Dixon Lee Giackino Memorial Group. In that group we ask people to sign up to be organ donors, blood donors, bone marrow donors. We have also started fundraising efforts to provide scholarships for graduating seniors and we also would like to be able to provide grants to people with addiction issues. Anything we can do to keep Dixon's memory alive and to make others know what a gift it is to give of yourself.

Posted by: Tara Hamilton

I would very much like to share a part of my family's story. My son,
Jesse was hit by a car while riding his bike out of a driveway. He was
not wearing his safety helmet. He was just 10 1/2 years old. Many people
within our community offered their sympathy at his loss and wanted to
contribute financially in his name. A teacher from his school helped us
to set up an account at a local bank to receive these donations which we
intended for purchasing bicycle helmets for children in need of them. A
bicycle rally was held at his school where the helmets were given away,
shortly thereafter.

A member of our local city council attended my son's funeral and took
our story to heart. She worked diligently and a local law was passed
within 2 years that requires any child under the age of 16 to wear a
bicycle helmet while riding within our city limits. I still cringe when
I see a child riding along the street without a helmet but I am
encouraged by the thought that perhaps an impression was made on some
children about the importance of wearing a safety helmet when riding a
bicycle. I have since heard from past classmates of my son and I hear
what an impact his death had on them and how our tragedy shaped some
small part of their lives. It has been 12 years since our loss.

Posted by: Jodie (Schoening) Nicely

Another family along with ours started a support group for parents who had lost children. We wanted to help those who were going thru the same trials and tribulations we were. We invited many who had lost children years before us. What a blessing they were!!! We learned we can survive.

Posted by: Pat Capps

My daughter Grace, 18, died in January 2005 from sudden cardiac arrest. She chose to be an organ donor when she was old enough to get her learner's permit, so there was never any question of her desire. Although we have not been in contact with any of the recipients of her gifts, we know from LifeNet Health that her kidneys,liver and pancreas were successfully transplanted. Part of a poem that Grace wrote says, "...What will matter is what you left behind, the people you touched, the things you did and what kind of leagacy you left behind...Live on after you die." How prophetic were her words.

Posted by: Lisa Lovegrove

Hello, I lost my husband 6 years ago and even though I miss him very much I always remember these three thing about him. 1.He got to go to Alaska like he always dreamed of doing. 2. He is not hurting anymore 3. He went fast so he didn't have to suffer any more than he was. Every time someone I know looses someone I let them in on my theory of remembering 3 things that are for the positive about them. It does no good to remember or regret I feel. Just look for the positive and live with that joy when ever you think of them. I do even though there is still a loss in my heart. I loved him so. I also get to have joy of knowing that he is seeing thru the eyes of a 26 year old man and an 80 year old man for he donated his eyes. I am glad he can see. Thank you for letting me share this with you.

Posted by: Linda Allen

Hello, I lost my husband 6 years ago and even though I miss him very much I always remember these three thing about him. 1.He got to go to Alaska like he always dreamed of doing. 2. He is not hurting anymore 3. He went fast so he didn't have to suffer any more than he was. Every time someone I know looses someone I let them in on my theory of remembering 3 things that are for the positive about them. It does no good to remember or regret I feel. Just look for the positive and live with that joy when ever you think of them. I do even though there is still a loss in my heart. I loved him so. Thank you for letting me share this with you.

Posted by: Linda Allen

My daughter, Amanda, was 15 years old when a tragic car accident occurred that ended her life. Organ donation was the way to carry on her light. The heart surgeon met with us and did let us know Mandy's heart would go to another 15 year old girl. This girl almost coded the night before, so this was such a miracle! He was the same surgeon that was taking care of her! Her lungs went to Carol, from Evansville, who suffered from A1A. When we touched base, the articles about Mandy had reached her home, and she knew from the article that Mandy was her donor. We still plan to meet soon. This inspired my mother so much, that after an article was written on a girl from Tennessee, that was a heart recipient, mom requested to meet the girl. She came to mom's home, and quite a tearful, joyful experience. Donation does help with healing, I firmly believe it. God bless.

Posted by: Tammy Rosolik

My only child, Kim, died in January 2006. After her death, I heard from the organ bank, about the kidney exchange program in my area, and came forward as a "good samaritan" donor in memory of Kim. Eleven months after she died, two people received kidneys - mine went to a young man, and his father donated to another young man.

Posted by: Denise Daley

My husband and I have chosen to honor Amanda through participation with Team Oklahoma. I am currently serving as co-manager of the team. I have also participated in the National World Kidney Day in Washington DC and at the Donate Life Day at the OK State Capitol. We volunteer for our OPO, LifeShare, at health fairs. Don't take your organs to heaven. Heaven knows we need them here!

Posted by: Cheryl Manley