When Chris of Jefferson City signed the back of his driver’s license, pledging to be an organ donor, he wasn’t sure donation would be possible if something happened to him because he had diabetes. Yet, according to his sister, Cheryl, his compassion for others led him to make the pledge – just in case.
In July 2011, while recovering from a stroke he suffered months earlier, Chris passed away from a sudden hemorrhage. In the shock following his death, Cheryl was reminded about Chris’ license and asked if she would consent to donation. She didn’t have to think twice.
“Chris was such a loving, kind person,” said Cheryl. “He would have been thrilled and surprised to know he could have donated anything. He considered himself older, and because of his diabetes, he didn’t think he’d ever be a candidate. To be honest, I didn’t realize it either until we went through the donation process.He would have really been happy to make any kind of contribution.”
Dedicated to helping others
Throughout his life, Chris was known for giving back to his community. After serving in the Marines during the Vietnam War, Chris continued his service to others by working for the state of Missouri as a classification assistant for the Department of Corrections.
He was also a dedicated family man and doted on his two nieces and one nephew. According to Cheryl, her brother was a second father to them, helping with diaper changes and volunteering to babysit. As they entered their teen years, Chris, an avid reader, was their “go-to guy” for help with history and technology homework.
Almost as dear to Chris’ heart were his beloved St. Louis Cardinals. From the time he was young boy, he followed the team, and as he was recovering from his stroke, his family joined him to listen and watch the team’s roller coaster 2011 season. Their miraculous win in October was bittersweet, but says Cheryl, “I’m quite sure he was dancing in Heaven during the World Series this year.”
A life of service continues
Chris had no idea the impact he would make on families across the country when he signed his license. Through his pledge, Chris saved the lives of his lung and liver recipients, and enhanced the lives of many more through his gifts of corneas, bone and skin to Saving Sight and Midwest Transplant Network (MTN).
Just as important, he helped provide hope in the midst of his family’s grieving process. “Donation was a healing experience,” remarked Cheryl. “Since I didn’t get to talk to him right before he died, and there were no final words, this was the last thing I could do for him. It was really rewarding to feel like I could carry something out he would have wanted.”
Receiving general information from MTN and the Eye Bank in regards to Chris’ recipients has provided a sense of peace as well. “The letters we have received about the transplant recipients have greatly helped with the healing process of losing a loved one. It seems almost like a miracle. I cannot think of a single reason not to become a donor.”