Volume 97, Issue 7   |   15 Feb., 2013

Friday September 12, 2008

Checking a single box may lead to saving 50 lives

By Jillian Overstake

A closed-casket funeral ended my summer. I shared the season with my boyfriend of over a year, Tyler Burd, senior. On Sunday, August 24, we were abruptly woken by a 3 a.m. phone call. Neither of us had any idea how drastically it would change our lives, or how it would change the lives of hundreds more.

All I heard through the fuzz of sleep and static cell phone reception was a panicked voice, and one sentence I will never forget: “Jesse got run over by a car.” Jesse, Tyler’s 14-year-old younger brother, was a freshman in high school in Kansas City, Mo., and had an idolizing little bro relationship with Tyler. A few minutes later, we were speeding to Children’s Mercy’s ICU in a stormy red-dawn morning.

I drove back to McPherson, praying desperately for Jesse, his family, the doctors, and wracking my brain for something to say to God, to Tyler, to myself.

Tyler called on Monday. Jesse was in a coma, and he was brain dead. The family searched their options, but Jesse’s outlook was numbingly bleak. The decision was made to let Jesse go.

In the midst of heartbreak, of unfairness, of every word we could think of that meant we were mad, confused, and irrevocably torn to nothingness, hope came. The option was given to Jesse’s family to make him a hero through organ and tissue donation.

With their go-ahead, Jesse’s heart now beats in someone else’s chest, his lungs are full of life, and his eyes are giving light to someone’s world for the first time. Donate Life America, a foundation that raises awareness about donation, says that Jesse’s life saved 50 people.

How does this affect a McPherson College student? Flip over that driver’s license. According to Donate Life, only 35 percent of licensed drivers and ID holders are donors. Though many states require more than signatures, it’s easy to sign up. Check out to see how. The option to donate is an easy one. Take the time to save lives and touch hundreds through tragedy. Think of the reaction of the recipients’ friends and family!

The pain of losing Jesse will never go away, but the closed-casket funeral marked not an end, but a beginning to Jesse’s story. What a comfort to know that it is the beginning for so many others, too, who personally know he is a hero.

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