Six-year old Noah Michael Davis of Shawnee, Kan., wanted to be a policeman so he could make sure “everyone was safe.” He didn’t make it. Instead, he drowned in the family swimming pool and was declared brain dead. Although he couldn’t help everyone, his family did donate his kidneys that gave two very sick people back their lives. On what would have been his seventh birthday, he was sworn in as an honorary police officer.
Noah’s story will have a special place in this year’s Rose Parade Jan. 1, which will be seen by nearly a million spectators and 20 million television viewers around the world. His portrait, made entirely from flowers and other natural materials, will travel on the Donate Life float, which each year inspires people to save and heal lives by becoming organ, eye and tissue donors. The float illuminates the decisions of families of every type who, having lost a loved one, set aside grief long enough to make a gift beyond price to complete strangers who otherwise would die.
Noah is only one of the donors recognized by the Donate Life float who is painfully young. Nearly one-third of the 81 floral donor portraits are for those aged 17 or younger. The youngest of all is Annie Rachel Ahern of Oklahoma City, whose family knew five months before she was born that she had anencephaly, which prevents normal brain development. But her parents and sisters wanted to hold and kiss her and put their cheeks against hers on her fleeting visit to the world. In the few hours she was here, Annie brought joy to the world by donating her tiny organs.
Each story is unique. Six-year-old Keegan Atley Adkins of Louisville drowned three years after his brother died but the decision of his parents to donate, they say, has brought them “much peace.” Garrett Brockway of Burlington, Iowa, was struck by a falling tree. In Reno, Audrey Jade Hope Sullenger’s three-day-old heart went to a three-week-old infant. Tiny Andrew Endo, of Chatsworth, was born prematurely and simply stopped breathing. In East End, Ark., Elijah Cole McGinley died after five days while his twin brother lived. And 12-year-old Joshua Thomas Waleryszak of Seattle, developmentally disabled and plagued by life-threatening illnesses, nevertheless donated his liver and both kidneys.
It’s hard to fathom that our sons and daughters can be lost so young. When our 7-year-old son, Nicholas, was shot in an attempted carjacking in Italy, donating his organs and corneas, which went to seven very sick Italians, was the only good thing that came out of a terrible time.
The waiting list continues to grow with more than 120,000 Americans, from infants to great-grandparents, hoping for the gift of life. It’s breathtaking, isn’t it, that so many of them will receive that gift from a child?
To learn more about the DonateLife Float see www.donatelifefloat.org.
REG GREEN (www.nicholasgreen.org) lives in La Cañada.