Written by Bruce Brown For the Daily World
Lisa Taquino's daughter Laci had just turned 15 in 2006. She was a JV cheerleader at Comeaux, where both Lisa and husband Chad had been students, and was looking forward to life's challenges.
Like most eager teenagers, Laci got her driver's license. Unlike many, though, she also signed up to be an organ donor.
One month later, Laci was gone, but her donated organs helped to extend the lives of six recipients, so her legacy lives on in others.
"When Laci told me she was thinking about becoming a donor, I told her there was plenty of time to decide that," Lisa Taquino said.
"The drivers' ed people had brought up the idea. She was a very responsible, mature girl.
"I told her I didn't make that decision until I'd had children. But she had a godchild and said, 'This might help Stevie.' It was so responsible of her."
Taquino shared her story on Monday at Lafayette General Medical Center during flag-raising ceremonies in support of South Louisiana donors and their families as part of National Donate Life Month.
Donate Life Louisiana, the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency and LGMC are partnering with Flags Across America and Donate Life America to spread the word about organ donation.
Every donor hospital, transplant center and recovery agency is urged to fly the Donate Life flag this month.
"Lafayette General Medical Center is honored to fly this flag in support of National Donate Life Month," LGMC CEO David Callecod said. "By raising awareness within our community, we can perhaps help save the life of someone in need.
"This small act of recognition and awareness is in honor of all organ and tissue donors and recipients."
"It's not something you talk about much with your children," said Lisa Taquino. "When Laci was declared brain dead, if we had made the decisions (on donation) on our own without knowing her wishes, it would have been so difficult.
"But, it was providential. I knew she had thought this through. We could live with ourselves. Everything happened within 24 hours."
Lexi Taquino turned 16 on Sunday, a student in the gifted program at Lafayette High. She remembers her older sister Laci and, like the rest of the family, honors her legacy.
"Lexi is a donor, and she volunteers with LOPA," Lisa Taquino said. "We felt it was good for her to get out from under Laci's shadow at Comeaux.
"There's not a day that goes by that Laci's name doesn't come up. It still hurts to hear her name, or talk about her, but her memory lives on. You can see the spark in Lexi's eyes when she talks about her. One of her goals is to keep her name alive.
"At one point, Lexi was talking about becoming a lawyer, but after this, she has talked about entering the medical field."
Lisa Taquino has begun sharing her story with students in talks at schools. It is a cathartic experience for the mother whose eyes still tear up at the mention of Laci's name.
"I wanted to wait until I could do it justice," she said. "I want to be strong."