Organ donor families come together for special gift - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Organ donor families come together for special gift

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Dalton Callison Dalton Callison
David and Tenah Callison David and Tenah Callison

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Similar tragedies helped two families give nearly a dozen people the gift of life.

Last year, David and Tenah Callison suffered the absolute biggest loss of their lives.

"Losing your child, none of us could even imagine. It would be one's worse nightmare," said Jenny Miller Jones, Director of Education for Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates.

In May of 2015, the couple's 22-year old son Dalton was killed in a car accident.

"He was a giving person, that's who he was," Tenah Callison said.

After the loss, the Callisons learned just how much of a giving person their son was.

"When we knew that he was not going to make it, they brought us the sheet showing us the date and time that he had signed up," Tenah said.

Dalton had joined Kentucky's organ donor registry.

"We never knew that he had done that until the unfortunate circumstances that came," David Callison said.

"And me and him talked about it, and we thought, how can we not honor his wishes," Tenah Callison said.

The Callison's loss gave the gift of life to several people through organ donations.

"There was no way we could deny his wishes," David Callison said.

It has been a painful journey, but the Callisons now have extended family through the Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates and a connection to other donor families.

"When you lose your child, like you have ... they give you their sympathy, but nobody can really, really fully understand," David Callison said.

"Five lives were saved," said Paula Mann, who is a donor mother and created the Hero at Heart Foundation.

Mann understands the pain. In May of 2012, her 17-year-old son Tanner died in a car accident. His organs were also donated.

"I've met three of them," Mann said.

And after giving the gift of life, Mann found another way to give. 

"We present a family each year that has lost a child," she said.

This week, Mann presented the Callisons with a getaway trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn.

"This is giving back from one donor family to another donor family, which is pretty unprecedented," Jones said.

Jones said the two families saved nearly a dozen lives.

"They gave hearts and lungs and kidneys to people that otherwise probably wouldn't be here with us today."

Jones hopes that will motivate others to do the same.

"KODA's message is always, when you go to renew your drivers license ... please think about joining the organ donor registry. And we hope that nothing happens to anyone, but if it should, at least your family would know what you wanted."

Meanwhile, the Callisons are still hurting, but this is a gift that makes them smile instead of cry.

"It's just something really nice to feel," David Callison said. "It helps with the grieving."                                                                                     

Right now, there are at least 1,000 people on the waiting list for organ donations in Kentucky.

To find out how to get on the registry, click here.

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