Unyts is paying tribute to our heroes of organ, eye and tissue donation. It seemed fitting to call this endeavour “Honoring our Heroes”. We know that for the families of these donors, they really are heroes, and we certainly feel the same way.
We are truly honored to share these very touching personal stories each month. If you would like to honor a hero, please read below.
For the month of May, we honor …
John Stark 1984-2005
John was full of life. He was always on the go, looking for adventure. He was into extreme sports and was always trying new things. His last craze was snowboarding. He was fearless. He did not believe in letting fear rule a person. He was also a prankster. He loved to get a laugh out of people. He also had a very deep sensitive side, which not a lot of people saw.
John knew that I loved him and worried about him, as all mothers do. He was very respectful of my feelings. He and his friends called me Mrs. John’s Mom. I was watching him turn from a sometimes rebellious youth into a responsible young man. I was very proud of the life lessons he was learning and the direction his life was heading.
John was a great brother to Mike. As children, if John received a Christmas present that Mike liked, he would give it to him. A few weeks before Mike moved to California, the fuel pump went out on Mike’s car. He had money saved for moving, but was still strapped for cash. Mike needed money for the repairs and was stranded at the shop, so Mike called John at work. He said no problem, then asked his boss if he could duck out to give Mike some cash. His boss said no, so he said, “Okay, I’m taking my lunch.” His boss asked if he was going to drive to the shop to see his brother and John replied, “Of course not.” But he did, and they fired him for it. When Mike thanked him, he smiled and said, “Mike, you’ve always been like a brother to me.” It seems only fitting that his generosity in life would carry over in his death and that he would chose to give his body as a final gift to others.
When I took John to get his learner’s permit, he wanted to know what it meant to be an organ donor. I told him, and John signed up to donate his organs. I always believed in organ donation, and he liked the idea. I remember coming home from the DMV and being amazed that this sometimes cocky kid would actually consider something so serious and life saving. I was really proud of him. He would amaze me like that sometimes. Most of the time he was carefree and happy-go-lucky, but he had a very sweet and soft side that he would let people see every once in a while. Never in a million years did I think I would ever have to make a decision about donating his organs.
On January 17, 2005, there was a bad lake effect snow storm and traveling was treacherous.
John and his buddy Jim decided they were going to go snowboarding at Holiday Valley. While driving down the 219, the driver lost control of the car and slid into oncoming traffic. The passenger side was T-boned and John was killed instantly. His body was put in the morgue at Bertrand Chafee hospital and John’s license, keys and wallet where the police barracks in Cattaraugus county. At this time the registry was just getting started and licenses weren’t marked with hearts, so the police had no clue that my son wanted to be an organ donor. I don’t even know if John had filled out the back of his license.
Because John and I talked about organ donation, I made a call to the hospital and was put through to Unyts. At that time, the last thing I wanted to do was discus with someone about donating my sons organs, but I knew it was something I had to do. The people from Unyts were wonderful.
Because my son died instantly, I could not donate his vital organs. I was able to donate his corneas, tissues and bone. My biggest fear was being told that his organs could not be used, but I feel so blessed that my son’s death has not been totally in vain and that he was able to help someone else.
His corneas were used to give the gift sight to two people. I’ve been fortunate enough to have met one of them. His heart valves were used to help to two children. All in all, I’ve been told he could have helped more than 50 people.
As a result of John being a donor, all of his friends are signed up to be organ donors and I encourage others to do so and give the gift of life.