All it takes is an instant, to change a life, to change a family, to change the world. That's something one Burlington, Iowa family learned the hard way. They're turning tragedy into triumph.
After their son Garrett was killed in a freak accident, Bruce and Tiffini Brockway knew his death couldn't be in vein, Garrett had to live on through others, by giving the greatest gift of all, the gift of life. If you asked a 10-year-old boy to describe the perfect life, Garrett Brockway would be it.
"Garrett was a great kid, fun loving, energetic."
He played sports, built Lego masterpieces, but mom and dad knew there was something extra special about their little guy.
"He was always concerned about everyone else and not himself," said Bruce Brockway.
An entry in Garrett's school journal says it all.
.....'I wish everyone had water and food. I would change the world it would change many lives everybody would be happy.'
But the Brockways' happy life tragically changed in an instant when in February, a dead tree in their yard fell on Garrett, causing severe brain injuries. He was only in the hospital a short time before the Brockways knew their little boy wouldn't leave alive. So they had to make a gut wrenching decision Tiffini.
"If we can't do anything more for our son, if we are not able to bring him home, who else can we help."
There's got to be other parents in despair like we are, we've got to be able to help them and that was the right thing to do."
Tiffini and Bruce donated Garrett's organs.
"It's such an honorable way to let a loved one go," said Tiffini.
So Garrett would live on by helping others.
"We joke between ourselves we're quite sure the 14-year-old boy who received Garrett's heart probably woke up with a love of kit kats and is probably a St. Louis Cardinal fan if he wasn't before," said Bruce.
And that's not the only person Garrett would help save. In all, he's saving five lives including a teenage boy who got Garrett's liver, a mom who received his pancreas, a college student who can finally get off dialysis, thanks to one of Garrett's kidneys. The other kidney went to a 65-year-old man. It was a perfect match.
"His corneas went on to give vision to two other people," said Tiffini.
The Brockways got a letter from a grandma who received one of Garrett's corneas, and they cherish every single word.
...'Dear donor family, thank you thank you I will think of you and pray for you the rest of my life.'
"We miss Garrett terribly, there's no doubt about that but the fact he's able to help these people it gives us something to lean on, to stay positive about and it gives us something to get out of bed and look forward to," said Bruce.
They knew their little guy was special and would go on to do great things.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think he would affect the number of lives he's affecting," said Tiffini.
His journal proved right. Garrett would change the world, though his time on earth was cut short, he's still changing lives today. The Brockways now dedicate a lot of their time raising money for organ donation and speaking at different events to increase awareness about the importance of becoming a donor. In fact, earlier this month, Bruce and Tiffini were invited to share their story with dozens of doctors, surgeons and staff at University of Iowa hospitals and clinics in Iowa City. UI Hospital is consistently awarded for its organ donation program.
So, how can you become a donor? First of all, talk to your family about your wishes. You can also sign up on your state's donor registry online and designate your decision on your driver's license.
You can learn more about becoming a donor in Iowa by clicking here. For Illinois, click here.
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