By Chad Smith
Pocono Record Writer
Pocono Record Writer
When he was 8, Ethan Moyer offered candy at the movies to a kid he hardly knew.
When he was 16, he gave gas money to cash-strapped friends.
When he was 19, he volunteered to drive a pal's mother to run errands.
And in death, Ethan is still giving.
The 20-year-old from Smithfield Township — killed in a car crash in early November after an alleged drunken driver rear-ended his minivan — was an organ donor. His organs have gone to help, and in some cases save, seven lives.
A few weeks ago, his family received a letter from the organization that handled the organ transfers about the recipients.
And while the Moyers say they aren't surprised that Ethan signed up as a donor, they are surprised by how comforted they are by the idea that his organs are now helping others.
"It has taken a lot of the pain away," said his mother, Lin Moyer.
Among those who benefited from Ethan's generosity: a 35-year-old personal trainer from New York who had been too sick to work got Ethan's kidney and pancreas; a 4-month-old girl who had been direly ill got a part of his liver (meaning she now has a fighting chance at life); and a 66-year-old woman for whom breathing was a difficult task — she had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was given Ethan's lungs.
'This is what Ethan wanted'
Ethan, who had been wearing his seat belt in the Nov. 2 crash, eventually died from major head and spinal injuries. But virtually all of his other organs were intact and healthy.
When doctors at Lehigh Valley Hospital realized Ethan wouldn't survive, they walked into the waiting room where the Moyers were sitting and asked if they knew that Ethan had signed up as an organ donor.
"I said, 'No, no. Don't you even talk to me about that,'" said Ethan's father, Ron, who was initially opposed to the idea because he was clinging to the hope that his son would recover. But as reality set in, Ron reconsidered.
"I started to think about Ethan. I started to think about what he must have been thinking when he signed up as a donor. And all of a sudden, I understood. This is what Ethan wanted. He was a giver."
Soon after the Moyers agreed to the procedure — even if someone is a registered organ donor, surviving family members have the final say when it comes to whether the person's wishes will be carried out — a medical team from Gift of Life arrived at the hospital and got to work.
The Philadelphia-based group handled the organ-donation process.
"I knew it was the right decision," said Lin, who works as a nurse at Pocono Medical Center.
"As a nurse, I've seen how much people with failing organs suffer. I knew once they got an organ they needed, they'd probably start feeling much, much better within a week."
One of Ethan's kidneys went to a woman who had been sick for three years, and his intestines, a difficult organ to transfer due to its sensitivity, went to a man in Washington, D.C. A 72-year-old Pennsylvania woman got the major part of his liver.
"Down the road, I think it would be really special to meet some of these people," Lin said.
Focused on grieving
But for now the family is focused on grieving. The absence of Ethan, who loved drawing and playing drums, represents a gaping hole in the Moyer family.
Indeed, the family has left Ethan's bedroom — which is covered with rock posters — just as he left it. His drumsticks, worn from use, lie on the drum set he played in a clubhouse-like room near his backyard pool.
"We do have the feeling that we've been robbed," said Rachel. "Here you had a kid who was bright and healthy, who would give anyone — any of his friends, even someone he didn't know — whatever they needed if it meant he could help them."
And, indeed, the letter from Gift of Life seemed to confirm this.
"Your son's heart was given to a 63-year-old man from Pennsylvania," the letter reads. "He is married and has two children. Ethan's heart started beating immediately after transplant."