Turning tragedy, grief into a positive outcome

What defines us as human beings is not what happens to us in life, but how we react. Can we take an event that is inherently tragic and devastating to us, and turn that event into a positive outcome in the face of adversity, pain, and grief? No parent should ever have to know the heartache and pain of having to bury a child. Yet we know this happens around the world every day. Whether to war, or famine, or disease, or accident, children die every day, and parents around the world face the ultimate grief of saying goodbye to a child.

On March 12, 2014, Wirt County lost the bright, shining light of 7-year-old Landon Taylor. Landon’s death was sudden, swift, and unexpected. It left a family, and a community, shaken, and in grief. On March 16, 2014, over 300 citizens, family and friends attended a memorial service celebrating his life and the legacy he left. Yet beyond our small community and the lasting impact he has left here, Landon was able to touch the lives of four other children, their families, and their communities. Landon became an organ donor.

In the United States alone, over 100,000 Americans are on the waiting list in need of an organ. This crisis is growing rapidly. On average there are only 30,000 transplants performed each year. More than 6,000 people die each year from lack of a donor organ, an average of 19 a day. As of March 2014, about 121,600 people are waiting for life-saving organ transplants in the U.S. Three-fourths of those are awaiting kidney transplants.

Faced with the death of their beloved child, Landon’s parents decided that as a final gift to others and tribute to his life, he would become an organ donor.

According to Landon’s mother, Brittany Taylor, “I have always known about organ donation but never really thought much into it until the accident. It wasn’t until they (the hospital staff) sat me down in a room with my family. Even then I was still uncertain with my thoughts about it. The more they talked and the more I thought about how Landon was always there to help others made me realize he wouldn’t want it any other way. He loved babies. He loved kids. He would given the shirt off his back for another child. So when I thought about the type of child my Landon was, and how he was so giving, and I thought about how if he would choose for himself this would have been the decision he would have made.”

Through the Taylor family’s gift, four other children have gotten a new lease on life. Within two days of his death, a 1-year-old girl had received his heart, a 1-month-old baby had received his liver, and two more children had received his kidneys. All told, four children, eight parents, 16 grandparents, and who knows how many friends and relatives were spared the pain and grief the Taylor family had to encounter due to Landon’s death. And the family has found that their act of love has helped them heal as well.

“It helped me cope, it helped knowing that one day I can stick my hand up against a child and feel my Landon’s heart beating … . That brings me peace. Even after the accident he is still making an impact, still touching lives. That’s the type of boy he was.”

The Taylor family, by taking one of the most tragic events that could ever impact them and turning it into a positive outcome for four other families, has truly honored the life of their son. And they have defined Landon’s legacy as one of hope, faith, and charity. Something they, and all of us, can be very proud of.

I implore everyone reading this to think about organ donation, and the positive impact you might have, even in death, to others. To find out more information, you can go to organdonor.gov/index.html, or donatelife.wv.gov. You may also find Donate Life WV on Facebook at facebook.com/donatelifewv.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Bo Wriston is director of Wirt County Office of Emergency Services.