Richard LaRue was 19 when his life was taken in an auto accident in 1996. “As impossible as his loss was and is, one of the things that has helped us get through was his donation of his organs, tissues, corneas and bones,” said his mother, Kay. “We had no idea, at the time, how much his gift of life would help us through.
“Our first meeting with KATS (Kern Area Transplant Support group) eight months after our loss was the beginning of a very endearing relationship with organ recipients. None was the actual recipient of our son’s organs, but it was the next best thing. It gave us the opportunity to see the good that came from his decision.”
Richard had decided to be an organ donor six months prior to his accident by putting the pink donor dot on his driver’s license. He had no idea how soon he would follow through with his decision.
“That made our decision much easier,” continued Kay. “We didn’t even have to think about it when we were asked by OneLegacy if we would care to talk about organ donation, and I was so glad they asked. In the midst of our grief we wouldn’t have thought about it until it was too late. That would have been tragic.”
Kay noted that the family met the recipient of Richard’s heart and kidney two years after his donation. “It was amazing to see a very thoughtful, caring person sitting there with a part of our son keeping him alive,” she said. “He has since passed, but it gave him an additional 11 years of life that he wouldn’t have had otherwise. In fact, all of Richard’s recipients have passed, but I still feel very good about his decision. It gave five people the chance to live, even if for a brief time, without gasping for breath, being attached to a kidney machine or thinking about dying from liver disease.”
In the local high schools, Richard’s story is now discussed in health classes. His story includes the tragedy of drinking, driving too fast, and not wearing a seat belt. “It is perfect for the kids to hear who think nothing will ever happen to them,” Kay remarked. “It is also a way for the kids to think about discussing the topic of organ donation with their parents and making a family decision about it. Richard always made us proud while he was on this earth, and he still makes us proud with the unselfish decision he made that keeps him here, with us, in spirit.”