MASON, Mich. — Last year we introduced you to two families brought together by tragedy but connected through Gift of Life Michigan.
There is an update to the story thanks to the incredible volunteers who dedicate their time to Gift of Life Michigan and help educate others on organ and tissue donation.
Last April, we introduced you to Holt resident John Edmond whose 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.
During the last moments of Amaia’s life, John was asked by a representative of Gift of Life Michigan if he would like to donate her organs. John says it was the hardest thing he ever had to do.
“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 the 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," he said.
While John was deciding to donate Amaia’s organs, across the state in Holland, Mike Lopez was fighting for his life. He needed a liver transplant to survive. His wife Sharon says she was doing a lot of praying.
“He was really weak. I could just see him deteriorating,” she said.
Later that day, Mike was in the operating room about to receive a liver transplant thanks to Amaia and her family.
Several months later Mike and John met in person. Mike says he will never forget that day.
“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 give each other the biggest hug. It was just overwhelming,” he said.
Mike is doing great and says he is forever grateful for Amaia and her dad, John.
Patrick O’Brien is the vice-president of communications for Gift of Life Michigan and says having John and Mike tell their story is important.
“When John and Mike tell their story it helps Gift of Life Michigan. John had this incredibly difficult tragedy happen in his life and made the most generous decision to have his daughter be a donor. And, to have Mike in his life and to see how that life has been changed because of his daughter, Amaia, it's when those stories are told that inspires people to join the Michigan organ donor registry. And since the story ran in good neighbors, 290,000 people across the state of Michigan have added their names to the Michigan organ donor registry. And when people do that, that is the best way for people to save lives," he said.
Patrick says Gift of Life Michigan has a new statewide campaign called Check Your Heart. They are asking people to take out their driver’s license and see if there's a heart in the corner. If there is, that means you are an organ and tissue donor.
Currently, there are over 2,500 Michiganders waiting for an organ donation.
Thanks to the more than 400 volunteers with Gift of Life Michigan, 27 of whom are from mid-Michigan, Patrick says more Michiganders can receive lifesaving organs.
“The volunteers at the Gift of Life Michigan are good neighbors because they care about organ and tissue donation enough to go out into the community and volunteer by sharing the message about how important it is for people to register to be organ and tissue donation donors,” he said.
The best thing you can do to help is to learn more about organ donation, sign up, or donate to Gift of Life. You can do that by visiting their website at www.giftoflifemichigan.org
We want to say thank you to all the volunteers with Gift of Life Michigan, you are this week’s Good Neighbors.
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