Organ recipient meets donor family

Photo provided by UAMS.

When a Crawford County law enforcement officer needed a liver and a kidney, he got that and so much more.

Cedarville Police Chief Ken Howard was on the waiting list for a liver and a kidney for three months when he got news that there was a match for both organs in 2012. After a successful surgery at UAMS, Howard decided he would reach out to his donor’s family.

"Right after I had my transplant, I wrote my donor family a letter thanking them for doing this, which allows me to live longer," Howard said.

Jeri Williams lost her 24-year-old son, Trenton, just a few weeks before. She got the letter on her first day back to work.

"I went by the post office. I was having a really bad day that day. I got up crying. I cried all the way to the post office. I knew it was going to be a really bad day. I opened up the mailbox and there was a letter from ARORA," Willams said. "I sat there and just cried because I needed that that day. I really need to know that he was so thankful. That's what I prayed for. I just wanted someone to be deserving and thankful."

The families met and have been inseparable ever since. Williams believes the letter, which produced a friendship, was the start of her healing.

"We've become great friends," Williams said. "It’s like another extended family for us."

The families even participated together in the Pasadena Rose Bowl Parade that featured a floragraph of Trenton Williams in 2016. Transplant Services Director at UAMS Joy Cope says UAMS and organizations like ARORA stay at the ready when a family decides to give the gift of life.

"We get everyone together, get the team up and ready to respond so that we can see to it. That the gift we're given is indeed, honored and cared for in the best possible way," Cope said.

Since Trenton’s passing, his mother started a foundation known as Trenton’s Legacy. the mission is to help grieving families and support organ donation.

"There are so many myths about there about organ donation," Cope said. "I want them to look at our story and I want them to know that organ donation works. It saves lives. It makes lives whole again. Even in our brokenness, we can help another family live life to its fullest. What more could you leave in a legacy for someone. We don’t have Trenton but his legacy will always be here."

There are 250 patients in Arkansas right now waiting on a kidney or liver. Cope hopes that stories like Williams' and Howard’s will encourage more people to consider giving the gift of life.

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