Fire department Lieutenant Harold Curtis Jr.'s death saves lives of four others
BY KELLE BARR
In the wee hours of the morning on Harold and Sandra Curtis’ 39th wedding anniversary, the ring of the telephone woke them to the worst new of their lives.
It was Aug. 1, 2009, and their son, firefighter Harold Curtis Jr., had been seriously injured at in an accident at the Hartford Motor Speedway.
To become a donor or for more information on organ donation, contact Gift of Life Michigan atwww.giftoflifemichigan.org.
As a first responder, Harold Jr., 36, was racing toward an accident on the track when he was thrown from the truck in which he was riding.
“My brother-in-law called us and said that Harold was hurt,” recalled Harold Sr., of Lawrence. “He told us to come to the hospital right away because things didn’t look good.”
The younger Harold Curtis was transported to Borgess Medical Center, where both of his parents work. Shortly after they arrived with their daughter-in-law, Michelle, the Borgess physicians delivered the sad news. After brain scans and extensive examinations, the brain injury he sustained in the accident was too serious to be repaired with medical intervention.
“They said that surgery wouldn’t work — there was just too much blood in his brain,” said Harold Curtis Sr., 60, of Lawton. “Everything else was just blur. I don’t remember what else they said.”
Michelle Curtis, knowing her husband’s wishes to donate organs at the end of his life, began to meet with a rotating team of specialists from Michigan Gift of Life. They intervened and counseled the family on a constant basis while Harold Jr. was kept alive.
By the end of the next day his heart, liver and both kidneys were on their way to save four lives — one in Texas and three in Michigan.
Aunts, uncles and fellow firefighters from the Lawrence Township Emergency Services department were among throngs of people who joined Michelle, her three daughters, Harold Sr., Sandra Curtis and two brothers-in law as her husband passed away.
“It’s what he always said that he wanted,” said Michelle Curtis, who is also a firefighter. “He was a lieutenant at the fire station and he was always helping people.”
While one family grieved the loss of a son, brother, nephew, husband and father — a father who would not live to see his daughters (now 15, 14 and 12 years old) graduate, get married or have their own children — four other families rejoiced at the gift of life they got from Harold Curtis Jr.
“I lost my son, physically, but he’ll always be with me,” Harold Curtis Sr. said. “He’s in my heart for the rest of my life and four other people got to live because he died.”
The recipients were anonymous, but a few months later, Michelle Curtis got a letter from one of them through Michigan Gift of life. The man didn’t mention his name or which organ saved his life, but his message was heartfelt.
“He wrote to say ‘Thank you,’ ” Michelle Curtis said. “He said that because of Harold, he would live to see his grandchild grow up.”