We are starting something new here at Unyts, to pay tribute to our heroes of organ, eye and tissue donation. It seemed fitting to call this new 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.
Branden Edward Baker
Branden Baker was just 17 when he gave the gift of life and became an organ donor. His family is dedicated to keeping his memory alive through the message of organ donation. This loving and caring teenager will never be forgotten. His parents share their very personal stories of Branden.
Submitted by Gail Bowden (Branden’s Mother)
I think about Branden every day. I remember his smile, his joy for life, his love of people (especially babies), his love for animals, and his love for family & friends. I bought my kids cell phones when they were teenagers. I called Branden the stalker because he loved to call people. He never had a whole lot to say he just like to call and say hi and ask what various people were doing at the moment he called.
He used to call me at work 5-6 times a day and ask how I was and when I was coming home.
I used to take Branden to the SPCA to visit the cats. Branden loved animals – well the furry kind – he was NOT fond of snakes or insects!
We used to go to the SPCA and go into the cat room – where all the cats roamed free. Branden and I would sit and talk to the “kitties” (as Branden called them) for over an hour. It would take a few minutes for the cats to get used to his chair but once they did there was not stopping the cats from jumping on his lap for some love.
I remember the joy on Branden’s face when I surprised him! On his 10th birthday I ordered a limo to come to his school to pick up him and his friends and drive them around for an hour before bringing them to my house for a party. Branden knew I was picking up him and his friends so I came to school just as the buses were pulling away from the property and Branden, his friends, his teacher and many other teachers from the school were walking out together. The limo was behind the school buses and as the buses drove around the circle to leave the limo pulled up in front of the school. I had told the parents of the kids coming to the party that a limo would be picking them up so they ran excitedly to the limo and began getting in –Branden was so excited but nervous and began telling the kids to get
out of the limo, because he was only one who didn’t know it was for him! I walked up to Branden and whispered in his ear that the limo was there to drive him and his friends home. The joy and surprise that was shining on his face was something I will never forget! He hugged me so hard he almost hurt me. “I love you mom. I love you mom.” He kept saying to me as he hugged me. When he got in he said “this is my best birthday ever!”
On Branden’s 15th birthday I got him a hummer limo – school was over by this time for Branden so I had it pick him up at home and we drove to his cousins’ schools to pick up them! He loved riding in the limo with the lights in the ceiling, and the leather wrap around seats, the radio, and his cousins. He loved to share his joy with others.
Branden was always a loving child. He cared about everyone and had so much love – which he gave out all the time. I talked to him a few times about hugging strangers and told him it was important to give people their space – to ask if it was ok to touch their pets or hug their babies. I think he just had so much love he had to give it out or burst!
Branden did not have an easy life. He had spina bifida which confined him to a wheelchair his whole life. He had 17 surgeries over the course of his life to implant or replace shunts in his head, to put tubes in his ears, to try to correct his vision and his voice, to lengthen one leg which was slightly shorter than the other, to release muscles and tendons in his legs which the contractures pulled too much, untether his spinal cord when it became difficult to even crawl, decompression surgery – to remove a piece of his skull in the back which was putting pressure on his brain stem, and surgery to make catheterizing himself possible. Branden hated being in the hospital –his dad and I made sure he was never alone. One of us was always there with him the entire time. Usually it was me. I would bring
books and read or watch TV while Branden was in surgery and sleep next to his bed (sometimes on the floor or under his bed – when he was in intensive care). He was never alone. We went with him into every surgery until he fell asleep and one of us was with him in recovery when he woke up. Branden loved to LEAVE the hospital! He hugged all the nurses who took care of him and smiled and waved to everyone.
Branden was a joy to our family and a treasured friend to many.
His legacy of love – love of family, friends and life lives on through all of us who knew him.
This next story about Branden is submitted by Lance Baker, proud father of Branden Edward and Bryan Patrick Baker.
Branden was young, maybe 8 years old, when he went on his first camping trip to Cayuga Lake State Park. The entire family would get together in July and get adjoining campsites on the same road. We would get 5 or 6 of these sites to hold everyone and their camping supplies. The very first night of Branden’s first camping trip it rained so hard that Branden’s brother Bryan was scared and wanted to sleep in the back of the SUV we had. I assumed that Branden would join Bryan and I, but to my surprise Branden replied “No, I want to stay here in the tent with Grandma!” Branden was adamant about staying with Grandma and protect her from the rain. While no rain entered the tent and everyone was fine the next morning , Branden was so proud that he stayed in the tent and made sure Grandma was ok. This is how Branden was, he wanted everyone to enjoy themselves and was happy that others were happy. He was so unselfish and so caring of others that he was an inspiration to everyone who knew him.
Branden was never able to walk and he used his wheelchair to go where he wanted. From the seat of his wheelchair Branden could move the world and have such a powerful influence on the hundreds of people he met during his short time he had. I truly believe that Branden was sent to us from heaven above to show us all how to better treat our fellow human beings and how to be happy with the little things that life has to offer.
It’s been over 4 years since Branden left us. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and what an amazing young man he was. I take comfort in knowing that even after his passing his legacy continues to touch the lives of so many people.
A Poem for Branden…by Gail Bowden
He loved yellow
and volkswagon beetles
He loved his family
and hugged everyone
His smile was bright
and lit up his face
We have pictures
and memories to share
Those who knew him
So many cared
We go on without him
Yet feel him with us
He gave strangers LIFE
He is my son
If you would like to nominate a hero of organ, eye or tissue donation, please fill out a form (click on the link below). We will be sharing these stories each month on Unyts blog and on our Donor Family Services page.