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Finding Triumph in Tragedy: Honoring My Son’s Gift of Life

Join me in raising awareness for organ, eye and tissue donation this holiday season

By Kelli Jantz, Donor Mother

I lost my son when he was just 14 years old. Jake was my youngest and loved the things that many teenage boys do: sports, playing X-Box and hanging out with his friends and family. A football fanatic and member of his high school team, Jake would get up at 5:45 a.m., a full hour and fifteen minutes before the rest of his friends, to prepare for his football games.

In September 2004, Jake was playing in a football game when he collapsed. He was airlifted to an area medical center, having sustained a serious head injury that caused massive swelling of his brain. After many hours of watching and waiting, our worst nightmare came true: Jake’s brain could not survive the injury.

As a transplant coordinator, I have helped potential organ recipients for decades. That day, I found myself facing my friends and colleagues from a perspective I never anticipated. We were the donor family this time, experiencing the grief and tragedy that I had witnessed so many other families go through over the years.

Though I had never had a specific discussion with Jake about organ donation, he knew what a tremendous gift it represented. He was an incredibly generous, kind and giving individual who always looked out for others. That made our decision to donate his organs very natural, as it would have been what he truly wanted: to offer the gift of life to someone else.

This year, I am proud to be marching in Denver’s Annual 9NEWS Parade of Lights on Saturday, December 2 to honor Jake and escort the Donate Life Colorado “Gift of Life” balloon surrounded by others who have been touched by donation and transplantation. I invite the Denver community to attend the parade to cheer me on, or tune in to watch for me on TV.

In sharing Jake’s story, I am hopeful that it will help to inspire others to say “yes” to organ, eye and tissue donation. DonateLifeColorado.org is a great resource with the facts you need to make an informed decision about donation and to register as a donor online. You can also register while obtaining a driver license or state ID.

Donor Alliance Parade of Lights