125 Voices - Rocky - Fifty Lives


Tissue Donor

My story starts with my son, Rocky, who at 22 passed away in a motorcycle accident in May of 2006. His short life was spent playing sports, riding dirt bikes and helping the underdog. Whenever he would get on a motorized machine or in a car, I would always say to him, "Please be careful". Having a mother and brother who died in a car accident in 1980, I was always worried. His response to me became, Mother, I can die crossing the street today and if we always live in fear of dying, we never live.

We had conversations about death and what he did like and dislike, but the one thing we never discussed was what if we die today? What then? Would you want a funeral, cremation, would you want to donate your organs and tissue to help others? As a person who always gave, his answer no doubt would have been yes.

My son loved living on the edge and when he became a father his whole outlook changed. His life became this precious gift given to him, a daughter, and what he was and was not going to do. Though family was always important to him, having his own daughter taught him even more how precious his life actually was.

I will say he never waivered on when it is your time to go, it is time. That fateful night in May our phone rang and my worst nightmare began. My son was brain dead and we needed to make a decision. I made decisions, felt life was unfair but tried every minute to hear my sons words, we do not get to choose when our life on earth is done. We chose to allow him to became a donor because he would have given you his lung anyway if you needed it. Though from a donor mothers prespective, one of the most difficult things I will ever do, is saying to the Doctor, Yes. I felt like I had butchered my son, and so many other things that roll through your head as you spend those last hours with him that it was eating me alive. Did I make the right decision? Am I really sure this is what he would have wanted? Then I remember my son and the giving person he was and know that it has to be the right thing. We had talks about what he wanted and Roc believed in cremation and had I been aware and educated on organ donation, maybe I would have had that conversation as well.

I finally decided to take my sorrow and turn it into something positive. What can we achieve from our sorrow, what can we teach that precious gift our son gave to us before he left, how can I help others see and learn what I have learned? If our story can at least get people to think and talk about it, then we are doing something. The letters and notes we have received from those that have benefited from my son's death has given me a new outlook on donation. I can now say that with this tragedy in our life, I have had this conversation with my other children and loved ones. Is it a great conversation topic? No, but when is a good time? I can tell you from experience it is not when you are sitting in ICU being told that your child is brain dead. Too many other emotions are running through your head and you are not in the frame of mind to even be thinking straight.

However, had it not been for the staff at PNTB, staff at Saint Alphonsus Hospital being involved and lending me the thoughts and education, I'm not so sure I would be telling this story today. I can tell you my son was always lending a helping hand, sticking up for or helping out the underdog. So making this decision to donate his organs and tissue has helped 7 people live, 2 people see and countless others benefiting from his tissue donation. His gift of life. I will not tell you it is an easy decision but one I believe should be discussed. We were able to take a terrible tragedy that we had no control over and turn it into something so positive that my son was able to one last time help out the underdog and give the gift of life.

As our family looks for ways to find the positive, I know my son has given something special to many people including a memory we can share with his daughter as she was only 8 months old at the time of his death. Many people we know have now made the decision to designate themselves Organ and Tissue donors on their driver's licenses due to living this tragedy with us and learning about Organ Donation. I can only ask that you have this conversation with your family and friends, educate yourself and them, as it can make a difference. Let me end by saying that the letters we have received from the recipients of Roc's organs has taught us that our decision to allow Rocky to become a donor was the right one and why I can say our decision was a good one. Have this conversation with your loved ones and in my son's words...Pay it Forward.