CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Kay Laughlin lost her son in 2005. While he was on life support, Laughlin said she didn’t want her son’s organs to be donated.
“Everything happened so quick, I said no. No, no, no, no,” she said.
However, after conferring with her oldest son, Shawn, she decided to have his organ’s donated upon his passing.
Her son’s organs went to save seven people, she met one of those people in 2016. Hearing from the man whose life was saved thanks to her son opened her eyes more to the impact her decision made.
“The doctors had given him days to live, and that’s when he got the phone call for my son’s organs. So, he calls my son his hero, and after meeting him, had I not made that choice, his mother would deal with what I do,” she said, holding back tears.
Patti Niles is the President and CEO of Southwest Transplant Alliance, and was an intensive care nurse for ten years. She has seen first-hand what people on the transplant list go through.
“They literally live by their telephones waiting for that phone call, because if it doesn’t ring, they will eventually die,” she said.
She has made phone calls to people on that list, to let them know they would be getting donor organs.
“To hear that energy in their voice, and that excitement, it was awesome. Then to be able to go back in the hospital and see them after the recovery, it was a unique opportunity to see the direct impact of someone saying yes to organ donation,” she said.
One woman Niles spoke about had lost her daughter, and decided to donate her organs.
“She used to get these letters, the letters from people who got the transplant, and she said it was always like a band-aid on her breaking heart. If she was having a bad day, she would pull those letters out that had enormous gratitude,” she said.
Laughlin and Niles both said if a family is in a situation where they don’t know whether to donate a loved one’s organs, to consider the lives they could save.
“Look at what happened with me, and what happened with this other family I got to meet. I said no, I kept saying no, and I’m glad I changed my mind, I really am,” Laughlin said.
“If your family were depending on your decision, would your decision be any different?” Niles said.
Niles said some people choose not to become organ donors because choosing to do so makes them face their own mortality. Another reason people choose not to be organ donors is they believe paramedics or doctors may not try everything they need to do to save their life. She said that is not the case, that often times those paramedics and doctors do not know if a patient is an organ donor, and that they will always do everything they can to save a patient.
To sign up to become an organ donor, you can do so when you get or renew your driver’s license, when you renew your vehicle registration, or sign up on the Donate Life Texas website.