When our son Chris died in 1983 we were the first family to donate a heart in Austin, Texas. We also donated his kidneys and corneas, and that was all that was being harvested in 1983. Organ donation was so new that the hospital personnel did not even ask us to donate his life saving organs> Two family members suggested it to us and we immediately responded yes, we wanted to do that. His heart went to Houston where it was transplanted by one of the famous heart surgeons at that time Dr. Cooley, I believe is his name. We have a very nice thank you letter from him in Chris’ scrapbook. The sclera from one of Chris’ eyes went to repair the eye of a young man about Chris’ age who lived in Marbel Falls, Texas and his kidneys went two two gentlemen in the Austin area. One may still survive today, almost 33 years later. One lived 3 years then died of a brain tumor. My husband’s mother was one of the first cornea transplants in San Antonio, Texas when she lost vision due to Fuchs Dystrophy. Chris was always very proud that his granny’s vision was restored. She actually received a second cornea when the first surgery failed. Just a few years ago a dear friend in Austin needed a kidney transplant and was put on the waiting list. She called and said she’d been told it might take three years. I said, not to worry. I will call in a favor and ask God to send you a kidney since we donated two. She couldn’t believe it when she got a call a few days later to tell her to come to the hospital to get her kidney transplant. I just smiled. I’m happy to report she is doing really well. We were reluctant to put our story into the newspaper but somehow the Austin Statesman found out who we were so they featured our story. A few weeks later a young couple who had read our story made the decision to donate the first liver when their baby was killed by their babysitter’s husband. I never miss an opportunity to talk about organ donation. I’ve had this bumper sticker on my cars ever since 1983: “Don’t take your organs to heaven. Heaven knows we need them here.” Our daughter works for Texas Medical Association and her office was right next to the state coordinator for Organ Donation of Texas so when our daughter heard about a donor quilt program, she told her coworker, “oh, my mama would have loved to do that” and so we were asked to make a donor patch for the next dolor quilt and I even got to speak at the dedication program. Brackenridge Hospital has put up a beautiful memorial across the hall from the ICU Unit and we were invited to place a leaf with Chris’ name on it on the memorial tree. Before the ceremony I stood before the tree musing aloud where to place the leaf with Chris’ name on it and a man standing next to me turned out to be a reporter for Austin American Statesman so I got to tell our story again in the paper. I wondered if Chris wold have approved of us donating his life saving organs until a high school girlfriend came to tell me her story. She signed up to be an organ donor before moving to New York City to pursue a modeling career and had signed a donor card before going to the big city. Chris heard what she’d done and laughed at her, telling her New York City was no more dangerous than Austin, Texas. He later went to her and apologized and then began campaigning for all his friends to sign a donor card although he never got around to signing one himself. We knew he would have wanted us to share his life saving organs. The gift of life we gave to 4 people has meant a lot to our family. We know Chris is pleased.
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