March 30, 2017

Organ donation awareness event set for April 6

On Dec. 11, 2015, Jamie Heard woke up earlier than usual. She said she went through her normal routine, which included morning prayers.

Jamie Heard with her son, William, who died in 2015 and whose organ donation helped another child receive a life-saving heart transplant.

On Dec. 11, 2015, Jamie Heard woke up earlier than usual. She said she went through her normal routine, which included morning prayers.

Four words from her morning devotional — God’s will be done — would be the source of her comfort hours and even days later. It is the phrase she repeated after receiving the phone call about her 2-year-old son, William.

While eating the last bites of his chicken noodle soup William choked on his lunch. After failed attempts to dislodge the piece of chicken stuck in his throat by the nanny and first responders, William was rushed to the nearest hospital.

“The first time that I saw him, I knew he was gone,” said Heard. “His heart was not beating and at that point I knew. The medical team gave him rounds and rounds of medicine to try to get his heart pumping again. They told us this was going to be the last round they could give and his heart started beating.

“I kept repeating: God’s will be done. In the midst of all of this, I was trusting God. Everyone was putting all they had into saving William. On that last attempt his heart started and they rushed him to Vanderbilt.”

Heard said William never regained consciousness. A ventilator was breathing for him. There were no signs of brain activity, she said.

“It looked like he was just sleeping,” recalled Heard. “I remember thinking he is stable and the vent is keeping him alive. What do we do next? I was confused about how this all was going to end.”

By Friday night, Jamie and her husband, Daniel, knew their son would not recover. It was soon afterward that a meeting to discuss next steps was held.

“We were presented with the option of organ donation,” said Heard. “As soon as we heard that, we knew that is why his heart started beating again. We knew that is why we were here. It was an answered prayer for us as far as what happens next.”

The Heards, who both had signed their drivers licenses to be organ donors, never thought about organ donation in this particular situation. Once presented with the option the couple did not hesitate.

Little did they know they were making a life-saving decision for 18-month-old Ava Martin of Chicago, who had been waiting more than three months for a healthy heart.

“We prayed that William’s organs would benefit someone else. The thought that William would be able to help someone else and give them a chance of life gave us some hope that something good would come from this tragic event,” Heard said.

Heard will share her family’s story, including how they met their son’s heart recipient, as well as talk about the importance of organ donation during the annual Donate Life Flag-Raising Ceremony as part of national Donate Life month. The event celebrates organ donor families, living donors and hospital staff who care for donors and transplant recipients.

This will be the eighth year for the event, which will be held at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 6, in the north lobby of Light Hall.

Heard will be joined by another patient family who will discuss the benefit of living donation.

The Heards said they are blessed to be able to help another family.

“Early on, in the days while preparing for his memorial and afterwards, it brought joy and gave us something positive to talk about with people. It was a sign of hope. Not very often do you get to have that kind of situation, and we needed that blessing.”

The online donor registry can be found at