HOUSTON — A tragedy in Colorado three years ago has brought a group of people closer than they ever could have imagined.
Clayton Sparks was 24 when he was declared brain dead. A skiing accident took his life but saved another.
“If he saw anyone that was in need, he wanted to be there to help them. It’s just the way it was,” Clayton's father, Larry, said. “When the doctor came out and he said Clayton’s an organ donor, that didn’t surprise me at all."
In Houston, Reid Gray was desperately waiting for a liver. His wife was 21 weeks pregnant with their twins.
“I was trying to figure out ... am I even going to be around for my kids?” Reid said.
The two families hadn't ever met, but they did share a mutual friend. When the Sparks found out about Reid's liver disease, they saw it as an opportunity for Clayton's life to carry on.
Through a direct liver donation, there's only a 25% chance of a match. But that small chance was enough.
“It seems that directed donation often works out. I don’t know if that’s fate or luck,” Houston Methodist Hospital J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center Transplant Hepatologist Dr. David Victor said.
Victor said thousands of people are waiting on the transplant list, but not everyone is a donor.
“The opportunity to affect nine people with one donation is a powerful, powerful tool,” Victor said.
Although Clayton's liver gave Reid his life back, it left a void that his parents could never fill.
“We always thought we’d have grandkids, and then after the accident, that could’ve been gone if it wasn’t for Abby and Reid,” Clayton’s mother Beth said.
That's because the Grays honored Clayton's sacrifice by naming their children Oliver Clayton and Kaylee June. To keep Clayton's story alive, Abby wrote a book about him called "Clayton Sparks Left His Mark."
“Clayton Sparks was an incredible man who was kind from a very young age,” Abby said as she read the book. “Clayton knew the importance of helping others. Because of his generous spirit, he helped more than he ever knew.”
“We tell the kids that Clayton is daddy’s superhero,” Abby said.
April is Donate Life Month. It's a month of activities to encourage organ donor registration. For more information on organ donation and how to register to be an organ donor, click here. Part of the proceeds from Clayton’s book will go to the Clayton Sparks Memorial Foundation. For more information on Clayton’s book, click here.