Organ Recipient Saves the Life of Woman Who Saved Hers. The story of Lisa Barker

In February 2014, a drunk driver in the American city of Lumberton, Texas, hit a car in which Dawn Sterling and her two daughters were riding. The adult daughter was pregnant and died instantly.  The other daughter, a 15-year-old, died of head injuries and was an organ donor.  Dawn was unconscious for over a month. She woke to find both her children and the expected grandchild gone. She recovered only to plan her suicide. “The very gifts that gave me life and purpose for the last twenty years were gone and I felt empty,” she says. At that point, she received a letter of such gratitude and hope from Lisa Barker, the 25-year old recipient of her daughter’s liver, that she could no longer face the thought of suicide. “Lisa saved my life,” she says. Dawn and her husband, Reid, have become close friends of Lisa and her family, who are planning to add to the good that came out of the transplant by adopting two children, siblings, from Ghana.

Few stories of the two sides communicating have such obvious momentous consequences as Dawn’s, which comes from Patricia Niles, CEO of Southwest Transplant Alliance, the organ procurement organization responsible to the US Government for organ donation in much of Texas and its 280 hospitals, one of which is Baylor, which recently delivered the first baby born in the US following a uterus transplant. “But the 58 American OPOs that cover every US state and work closely with many of the world’s best-known hospitals say that out of the tens of thousands of cases where both sides have communicated with each other, either by anonymous letter or face-to-face meetings, the results are helpful to both sides in the great majority of cases and in some cases dramatically so,” Reg Green says. “These communications also help boost organ donation rates because the two sides often decide to tell their stories in local schools, hospitals and churches so that other families will see for themselves how a simple decision can save multiple lives.”

Press release from Reg Green (first published in December 2017)

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