In February 2010, David deSabla Jr. had gone skiing with friends in Garrett County. The 29-year-old hurt his knee in a fall and later stopped breathing.
He was an organ donor and DeHaven later learned that his liver, heart and kidney had been transplanted into three different men. His donation, which helped provide a new heart for Baltimore resident Michael Yater, is one of 30 stories that will be used during the month of April in an effort to encourage organ donation.
"He was just a really good guy and it was one of those horrible, tragic, freak things that happen," said DeHaven, of Annapolis. "We're just the kind of people where (organ donation) wasn't even something we thought about; it was just what you do."
Donate Life Maryland has nearly 2.2 million registered donors in the state and just under 50 percent of adults are designated as donors, officials said. Since 2007, this registry has been keeping track of Marylanders who have agreed to become an organ, eye and tissue donor. Participants get a heart displayed on their drivers licenses or a signed donor card.
Still, the organization is faced with common misconceptions about donating. Some people decline to be donors because they don't think they are healthy enough or that saving their lives won't be a priority. But at the time of death, medical histories are reviewed to determine what organs can be transplanted. And the hospital staff is separate from the medical team that would be doing the transplant, said Natalie Benavides, the organization's executive director.
The nonprofit's 30 Stories/30 Days initiative will profile people whose lives have been changed by organ donation.
"When you're a donor, you tangibly save someone's life," Benavides said. "We want to remind people about the life on the other end. There is someone who gets to see their daughter get married... Real stories of people who get to return to work."
Friends and relatives described deSabla as having the "heart of a lion." At his memorial service, friends told about how he took a homeless man into 7-Eleven and told him to pick out anything he needed, and how he bought diamond earrings for his friends' newborn daughters. He was the oldest of four and in 2007, deSabla earned a culinary degree from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.
Information on donors is confidential, but officials from the Living Legacy Foundation gave DeHaven general information about where her son's organs had been sent. He died in the midst of the area's epic snowstorm, so his organs were not sent far. Eventually, she heard an interview featuring Yater, a 53-year-old man who had a heart transplant around the time of deSabla's death. DeHaven contacted him and now her family has formed a relationship with his. Yater came to Annapolis in December when DeHaven threw a party for what would have been deSabla's 30th.
On April 7, the pair is scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the Orioles' game against the Tigers.
"I don't look at him as the man who has David's heart," DeHaven said. "I look at him as someone who is here and wouldn't have been without it."