I awoke at 6:15 on the morning of December 27, 2019 to discover that Winston, my middle son who was 16, had intentionally shot himself in the head. His breathing was shallow and rattling. I immediately called 911.
The EMT personnel arrived and worked on Winston in our home. While they worked, I paced the floor and cried out, “Please save my baby. Save my baby.”
After what felt like an eternity, the EMT’s loaded Winston into an ambulance to transport him to a local hospital.
Within two hours of arriving at the hospital, a doctor met with us. His words pierced my heart, “Winston’s injuries are not compatible with life.”
I have known my whole adult life that I wanted to be an organ donor. I never could have imagined, however, that I would have to make that type of decision for my child. I remember blurting out to the doctor, “Can he be an organ donor?”
The doctor explained that additional testing must occur over the coming 24 hours to make an official determination of brain death.
During the agony of waiting for tests to confirm what we already knew, the doctor put us in touch with Vanessa. She so graciously walked us through every step in the organ and tissue donation process. My husband, Garvin, and I gave KODA permission to recover Winston’s organs and tissues to do as much good possible for as many people possible.
With tears in her eyes, Vanessa presented Garvin and me the Gift of Life Donor medal in Winston’s honor. She explained, “Anyone who saves the life of another is a hero. Winston is a hero.”
Garvin and I know that 4 people were given a new chance at life because of Winston’s organ donation. Possibly another 35 people will have a better quality of life due to his tissue donation.
In life, Winston brought such joy to others. He was a compassionate soul who always reached to the outcast and down. He was a giver. In his untimely death, it brought Garvin and me comfort to know that he was still giving to others. Through his organ and tissue donation, Winston lives on.
Telling my story and encouraging others to become organ and tissue donors is my way of honoring Winston. My hope is that others will engage in open dialogue about this sensitive topic. Had Garvin and I not had conversations about organ donation throughout our marriage, I doubt we could have made the decision for Winston to be a donor. In the crisis of the moment, we could have missed the opportunity.