HOUSTON -- On a cold Thursday morning at an event held outside at the TMC Commons in the Texas Medical Center, two moms sat side by side but on opposite ends of the organ donation journey.
Shelby Gonzalez lost a daughter to a car crash.
Kristi Karrer could lose a son if he doesn’t receive a new heart.
But both are staunch advocates of organ donation.
"Your world flips upside down,” said Karrer of the diagnosis she got two years ago for her 10-year-old son, Rylan. “You wouldn't expect it."
Rylan has a rare condition called restrictive cardiomyopathy. His heart squeezes properly, but then it doesn’t relax or recoil the way it should. Only one in one million children get it.
The day doctors discovered his heart problem was the same day they told the Karrer family that a heart transplant would be Rylan’s only hope.
Rylan has been on the transplant list for 513 days.
"We're just waiting for the call,” his mom said. “And every day is a day closer."
Shelby Gonzalez got the other call. Her daughter Dazelle was 11 months old when she died in an automobile accident in 2007. Her family made the difficult choice to donate her organs.
And today, Dazelle’s heart still beats in the chest of a young boy named Braydin McClelland, of Jasper, Texas.
Shelby asked for and was granted the chance to hear the heartbeat herself. She is now close friends with the McClelland family.
"When you lose your child you never think you're going to be able to do that again,” Shelby said of hearing her daughter’s heartbeat. “And to be able to...it's a great feeling.”
“Organ donation,” Gonzalez said, “can help a donor family through their unspeakable grief. I feel like it has helped us a lot with healing, with our healing, to know that she still lives in someone else.”
Thursday’s event, sponsored by Life Gift and Donate Life Texas, was part of National Donate Life Month. More than 117,000 people are waiting for a lifesaving transplants across the country. Every day, 75 people are saved by an organ transplant; but, every 18 minutes someone dies waiting for the gift that never arrives.
While Life Gift says that more than 3.6 million Texans have registered with the Donate Life Texas Registry, the statistics show there is always the need for more people to make the same decision.
“You never know whose live it might save,” said Karrer battling through tears to address the crowd at the Donate Life event. “And it gives us all the chance to be superheroes."
The event also featured music by Scott MacIntyre, a finalist on the television show American Idol. He made news for being the first blind finalist on the TV program, but he is also a kidney transplant recipient who has appeared across the country as a performer and keynote speaker.
“Organ donation,” Texas Medical Center CEO Dr. Robert Robbins told the crowd Thursday, “serves as a bridge between despair and hope, between death and life, for thousands who wait for a second chance."
Ten-year-old Rylan Karrer enters his 514th day on Friday waiting for that chance.
Below are links for more information on organ donation: