A gift of love

By Becky GINOS bginos@davisclipper.com

BOUNTIFUL—When 15-year-old London Layton and her mother Torrie went to get her learners permit Dec. 11, 2015 the question came up about organ donation. They had a little discussion about what that meant and London checked the box “yes.” Little did they know that she would pass away in her sleep that night and her decision would impact several other lives. “Right there we had a conversation about organ donation and I asked her if something happened to her if she would want to donate,” said Torrie Layton. “She said ‘yes why wouldn’t I?’ Then she took the drivers test. My husband and I and our older daughter are donors so we would have donated anyway because we believe in it because we know how it can help people.” Torrie said they went in the next morning to wake London up and found she had passed away. “They said it was natural causes. She was a type I diabetic but we don’t know what happened,” she said. “IDS (Intermountain Donor Services) had been trying to call us all day long but we were in crisis mode. At about 11 that night they called my husband. He almost didn’t answer the phone but it was IDS. They said ‘we know you lost your daughter but this is time sensitive. We only have a few hours left.’” The Laytons shared their story about checking the box the day before with the woman from IDS. “That’s how we got involved with IDS and they use her story on their educational site and when they go out to visit high schools,” said Torrie. “London was not able to donate any organs because she’d gone too long without oxygen but she donated tissue, corneas, bone and soft tissue.” April was National Donate Life Month and in connection with that, IDS has been trying to get the word out about the importance of organ donation. “There are a lot of misconceptions about donation that are not necessarily true,” said Dixie Madsen, public education/public relations manager for Intermountain Donor Services. “Some people think ‘if I’m a donor the doctors won’t try as hard to keep me alive’ but they will do everything they can before donation is considered. Others have religious views but most of the main-stream churches are in favor of it.” Patients also assume they’re not healthy enough to donate, she said. “There are very few illnesses that would prevent organ donation, so go ahead and they’ll figure it out.” There are approximately 730 in Utah waiting for a transplant, said Madsen, and 436 people received one in 2017. “Everyone should consider organ donation. People sit back and say ‘that will never happen to me’ but you never know which side of that spectrum you’ll end up on.” Madsen said families should at least have the conversation. “When we’re dealing with someone who has lost a loved one and they’ve never talked about it and they find out that person is a donor it comes as a surprise.” Kaidence Stevenson is 11 and has been on the receiving end of donation twice. “She’s had two heart transplants,” said her mother Shauntelle. “The first was when she was 10 months old and the second when she was 5. She got sick when she was 5 months old and a stomach bug attacked her heart. She was in ICU at Primary Children’s pretty much the whole time waiting for her transplant.” Shauntelle said her heart came from a 3-year-old boy who tripped and hit is head on a table. In spite of their tragic loss, the boy’s family has developed a close friendship with the Stevensons. “We’ve met them multiple times and his mother promotes donation because she said it has helped her family heal knowing the good it did.” Rick Lilly received a kidney from his father 20 years ago and after it gave out about three years ago his cousin donated one. “My dad and I had more fun in the hospital,” said Lilly. “We took laps around the nurses station with our gowns flapping.” Lilly has competed all over the world in the transplant games. I’ve won gold medals on four continents and one silver on the fifth,” he said. “I’ve got three kids and I was told I’d never have any. People ask why check the box it doesn’t seem to help but it’s the last gift you can give to another person. You might as well recycle yourself to help someone else.” Torrie Layton said sometimes recipients feel guilty. “They wonder how they can say thank you when you’ve lost the biggest thing in your life,” she said. “I say don’t feel guilty. There is nothing you could have changed for London. To meet you would be awesome. This is more than a gift. At our house we call it a cool act of love. It’s life changing for so many people who are waiting.”


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