SPRING VALLEY, Minn. (WCCO) — April is National Donate Life Month, and a Minnesota farm family has a touching story about organ donation.
Last June, 42-year-old Eric Howard of Spring Valley fell off his semi-truck while loading corn and suffered a serious brain injury.
His 19-year-old son Luke performed CPR, but sadly, Eric later died at a Rochester hospital.
“He just taught the boys so much. He taught them work ethic, he taught them about helping others,” said Chris Howard, Eric’s wife.
Chris said her husband never said no to someone in need. But on June 19 of last year, it was Eric who needed help. The man she had loved since high school had been involved in a farm accident and was fighting for his life at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
“I remember the doctor coming in saying that, ‘We have to do surgery and this is life or death,’” said Chris.
Despite their best efforts, Eric’s brain slowly shut down. Chris remembers the moment the neurologist told her the news.
“I was looking at the CT not comprehending, and she turned to me and she said, ‘Chris, what he’s saying is that the part that is Eric is gone,” said Chris.
During her family’s darkest moment, Chris saw an opportunity for Eric to continue to help others, even after his death.
(credit: Chris Howard)
Eric was an organ donor. And the CPR Luke performed on his dad made it possible to donate his organs — thanks to help from the nonprofit group, LifeSource.
“It’s truly a legacy of giving, and a legacy of hope. Hope for those in need of transplant,” said Susan Mau Larson of LifeSource.
On what would have been Eric’s 43rd birthday, Chris got a letter from the family of a man who received Eric’s heart.
“So she captioned it, ‘This is the first time that my husband is hearing your husband’s heartbeat,’” said Chris. “It was a really tough day. And then to get the mail, and it was there, like, it was just perfect.”
For Chris, it’s a lifeline to Eric. There’s a sense of peace in knowing a part of him lives on. She wears his wedding band around her neck, along with a printout of Eric’s heartbeat, taken not long before he died.
“The recipients are so grateful, and they know that somebody had to lose their life in order for them to live,” said Chris. “I love hearing from them.”
She has also heard from someone who received one of Eric’s kidneys.
LifeSource said one organ donor has the potential to save up to 75 lives. There are currently 3,000 people waiting for a donation in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.