Kasey Burleson's generous spirit reflected in organ donation, toy drive
By CANDY BROOKS
ThisWeek Community Newspapers
It was two days before Thanksgiving, 2005, when Marsha and Mark Burleson got the phone call that all parents dread.
There had been an accident. Their daughter, 16-year-old Kasey Burleson, was critically injured. They rushed to her side at Riverside Hospital.
For many hours, they waited as scans and tests were performed, then had to accept the fact that Kasey would not regain consciousness.
Surrounded by family and hundreds of Kasey's friends, many of them fellow students at Worthington Kilbourne High School, they said their goodbyes. First, though, they found a card in Kasey's wallet that indicated she wanted to be an organ donor.
The Burlesons abided by their daughter's wishes.
Her kidney and pancreas healed a woman with diabetes. Her left lung helped a man to breath easier. Another kidney helped another man live, and her liver went to yet another critically ill person.
The couple has met three of the recipients.
They still miss Kasey every day and every night, Mark Burleson told a class at Worthington Christian High School on Dec. 15.
But the organ donation, plus the toy drive put on in her name every year, continue to reflect the giving spirit of his daughter.
Called Kasey's Gift, the toy collection for needy children has netted thousands of toys.
Many of them are donated at Fire Station 27 on Smoky Row Road. That is where Kasey would proudly take toys to donate when she was a child.
It is also the fire company that responded to the scene of her accident.
Toys are also collected at the Worthington Community Center, where Kasey worked.
The outpouring of caring donations from the community has been very meaningful, her father said.
"That, and having met some of her organ recipients, helped us carry on," he told the class.
He and educators from Lifeline of Ohio (LOOP) provided information to students in the health class.
LOOP is a nonprofit organization that promotes and coordinates the donation of human organs and tissue for transplantation.
Its goal in addressing students is not to persuade, but to provide information they will need when they are asked to register as a donor when they get their driver's licenses.
Some of the facts:
• In Ohio, more than 3,300 people – 500 in central Ohio – are awaiting an organ transplant at any time, and hundreds more await tissue transplants.
• In 2009, 284 Ohioans gave the gift of life through organ donation at the time of their deaths. Through their generosity, 896 people received a second chance at life.
• Once every 48 hours, an Ohioan dies waiting for a transplant.
The number one reason given for not being a donor is the idea that doctors might not work as hard to save the life of a potential donor. That is a myth, the students were told.
"When our family went through this situation, at no time were we threatened, at no time did they shorten her care," Burleson said.
It was not the topic of the day, but he also shared another message with the teenagers: Wear a seatbelt.
"If my daughter had worn her seatbelt, I wouldn't be here today," he said.