“My dad was the biggest dork,” Abby recalls. “He was always the one to make somebody laugh.”
Robert was one-of-a-kind, with a dark sense of humor and a passion for culinary arts and cooking. He worked as a professional chef and was his best self in the kitchen. While Robert’s journey in life wasn’t easy, Abby remembers one-on-one time cooking with her dad in the kitchen and, most of all, feeling that “… I never didn’t know love.”
On November 20, 2014, Robert died unexpectedly from cardiac arrest due to an overdose. Abby was only 19 at the time and had just started college a few months earlier. While much of the time shortly after his death was wrought with the pain of sudden loss, she distinctly remembers the conversation around his tissue donation. For years, Abby felt a powerful sense that her father had a message for her, and even had a vivid dream about him where he gave his heart to her.
Fast-forward six years, and Abby had accepted a job role in Saving Sight’s Human Resources department. As she was exposed to the eye bank’s sight-saving mission and heard stories from transplant recipients and donor families, Abby’s curiosity about her father’s donation grew.
“Being here, I wanted to know if my dad was able to impact somebody’s life,” says Abby. “It was definitely a full-circle moment.”
This fall, Abby connected with the Aftercare team at SightLife, the local eye bank in Washington state that helped facilitate Robert’s gift of eye donation in 2014. She quickly learned that her father gave the gift of sight to two individuals in Japan. Abby finds special meaning in this, knowing that Robert used to get a lot of his culinary inspirations from Japan, as well as had love for the original Iron Chef show from the 90’s.
Abby also learned from the local organ procurement organization, LifeCenter Northwest, that her father helped 57 people total through eye and tissue donation. Among those people is a 12-year-old girl who needs orthopedic surgery, a 78-year-old who required spinal surgery, and a young girl in Arizona who received a life-saving heart valve.
That’s right. Remember Abby’s dream about her father’s heart? She finds special significance in this now, knowing that his donation was life-saving for a heart tissue recipient.
Today is the 6th anniversary of Robert’s passing and Abby has found a new sense of connection to the gift of donation. Although no easy task for any donor family, she is working on writing a letter to his recipients to share more about who her father was and his legacy. She is also planning for a new tattoo that will pay homage to her father’s love of cooking and his lasting gift through eye and tissue donation.