April is national donate life month. The purpose is to encourage Americans to register as organ, eye, and tissue donors and to celebrate those who have saved lives through the gift of a donation.
Today's good Neighbors highlights the story of two families impacted by Gift of Life Michigan.
John Edmond's 7-year-old daughter Amaia was shot and killed in a home invasion on July 23, 2010. there wasn't anything doctors could do to save Amaia's life. As anyone can imagine, the pain for John and the family was unbearable.
"It was the worst feeling I had ever felt before. But after I prayed, I had a sense of peace come over me, and it was overwhelming, and it's the driving motivation that keeps me going."
During the final moments of Amaia's life, John was asked if he'd like to donate her organs to Gift of Life Michigan. He recalls the conversation he had with the gift of life representative.
"As she was talking to me. I kind of like zoned out a little bit. It was almost like I had a thought bubble that popped up in my head. It was of Amaia and her personality and how she loved to help people. She loved to help my mother plant flowers in a garden. I mean, it was just she just loved to help a little too much. So that made it a little bit easier. When I snapped out of it, I don't know how long the lady had been talking, but my response must have been in a matter of seconds because she stopped, and she said, "Are you sure?" I'm like yeah, of course, you know she loved to help people. And then that's when the process started.
Patrick O'Brien is the chief communications officer for Gift of Life Michigan.
"John's witness and testimony, and what is the most heartbreaking tragedy someone can experience losing their child is an example of the selfless thinking that happens in those worst moments where someone says I have just lost my daughter. But I have an opportunity. I have an opportunity to make a decision that can save other people's lives and provide my daughter with a legacy of life."
Across the state, in Holland, Michigan, Mike Lopez, who was 53 at the time, was fighting for his life. He was dying from liver failure, and his wife Sharon says she didn't think he would make it through the month.
"He was really weak. I could see him deteriorating."
"And then the day you received the call. Tell me about that."
"The first thing I did was call my sister, and I can hardly even talk to her. She thought something really bad had happened. But I told her that we got a call to go to Detroit. They had a liver for Mike.
Mike immediately went into what was anticipated to be a 12-hour surgery. Four hours later, the doctors let Sharon know the transplant was successful and Mike was doing great.
Afterward, Mike wanted to know more about the donor that saved his life. So Gift of Life Michigan helped connect him – to John.
They made arrangements to meet here in Lansing.
"I saw him, and he had his back towards me, and I said, 'hey, are you, John?' And he recognized my voice right away. He turned around. He turned around and came walking towards me, and he's got tears in his eyes, and so did I. We just walked towards each other and gave each other the biggest hug. It was just overwhelming."
"Mike, to me is family. I love Mike. There's a connection there. Mike has her liver. And sometimes, when I hug him, I'm trying to feel his heartbeat because my mind goes back, and I have to remember, he's got her liver and not her heart. But I love my Mike. Mike is a gentleman."
Amaia's legacy lives on. she was able to save five lives through her gifted organs,
Her heart was donated to save the life of another seven-year-old girl whom John has not met but hopes to someday.
"Dear John, thank you very much for reaching out to us; words can't even begin to express the gratitude we have for the special gift we received from your precious daughter Amaia. We feel very blessed that in your time of sorrow. You also thought about helping someone else. You said in your letter that I'm I have always wanted to help others in need. On July 24 Amaia's GIFT of Life helped save our daughter, and keep her with us, and we continue to struggle with the thought and reality that you weren't so glad we can tell that you had seven very special years with her."
Gift of Life Michigan tells me that 22 people die each day in the united states – waiting for a life-saving organ.
The best thing you can do to help is to learn more about organ donation, sign up, or donate to Gift Of Life.
To John – and his family – who made the brave decision to donate Amaia's organs. We salute you.
You are more than a good neighbor. You are a lifesaver!
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