DONATE LIFE ORGAN DONATION AWARENESS- CASPER, WYOMING
FAMILIES OF ORGAN, TISSUE DONORS HONORED
Families of organ, tissue donors honored
By EJ CONZOLA II - Star-Tribune staff writer
Donna-May Luana Barrett Smith was "feisty" and a bit of an "outlaw," her parents recalled Sunday.
No, not really an outlaw, Donna-May's mother, Lorna, corrected herself. She was a person who "liked to take on the outlaws."
The Smiths, who live in Torrington, traveled to Casper Sunday to honor the memory of their daughter, who was killed in a car accident Nov. 5, 2008. They joined roughly 50 other people who had turned one of the great tragedies of their lives -- the death of a loved one -- into an act of generosity that would spare other families a similar pain and sorrow.
The Smiths were among the survivors of organ and tissue donors recognized Sunday at Lives Transformed, The Donor Family Tribute, sponsored by the Donor Alliance, the organ and tissue procurement organization for Wyoming and Colorado. The event, held at the Nicolaysen Art Museum & Discovery Center, was the first of its type to be held in Wyoming, said Donor Alliance President and CEO Sue Dunn.
"We are here today to celebrate the act of donation," Dunn said. The ceremony not only recognizes the difficult decision the families made, but "helps in the grieving process," she said.
Michael Smith, Donna-May's father, said the decision to donate his daughter's organs and tissues was made in a fog of confusion and uncertainty. The family had never discussed organ donation with their 15-year-old daughter and were uncertain themselves about what they wanted to do in the terrible hours after learning of the crash.
"I think shock took over and gave us the strength," Michael Smith said.
The decision was validated some time later by Donna-May's grandmother, who said her granddaughter had discussed becoming an organ donor with her, Smith added.
Donna-May's organs and tissues were transplanted into more than 100 people, including two infants who received heart valves, Lorna Smith said.
"They got to use so many things," Lorna Smith said. "She so would have loved that."
One organ doctors were unable to use was Donna-May's eyes, Lorna Smith said. "She had the most beautiful blue eyes," Smith recalled, saying she had hoped that someday she would be able to see those eyes in another person. But the eyes were too badly damaged in the accident, she said, so now she looks for the attitude that made her daughter who she was.
Sunday's ceremony included short speeches by two people who had received organs or tissue. Hearing the stories of how a wrenching decision could produce such positive results was "wonderful," Lorna Smith said.
"It's good to see how things do work," Michael Smith added.