Ceremony Brings Together Donor Families, Recipients
Tragedy turned into happiness Sunday as a group of organ recipients met the family of a fallen East Texas Officer, who gave them new life.
Officer Bryan Vail was killed in a car crash back in December. The 24-year-old was headed home from his shift as a Henderson Police officer when the accident happened.
As a police officer, Vail was committed to helping others. Family members said he spent much of his young life trying to do just that. That's one reason his mother and sister gave doctors permission to use his organs for donation.
Sunday's ceremony honored both donor families and recipients. It was a chance for Vail's mother and sister to see firsthand just how valuable their son's gift was. The annual ceremony has become a day both donor families and recipients look forward to. A day when those blessed with new life talk about the future and about those who made that future possible.
Bryan Vail is one of those special people. For his family, this meeting has been a long time coming.
"I have looked forward to this day since I signed my organ donor papers," said sister Cristi Woodward. "I knew he always wanted to do this."
Four of those who received organs from Vail were able to attend. For all but one it was the first time they would come face to face with his family.
"Up until today I was excited and wanted to do it, but this morning it was a little too real," said kidney recipient Regina Bailey. "It helps to know that he lived everyday life to the fullest cause that's how you need to live cause you never know what is going to happen."
"I just can't ever tell them how much I appreciate them," said kidney recipient Michael Lobstein. "I hope I never know what they have gone through, but I'm so glad they let him be a donor."
The man who received Vail's heart was also there as well as the man who now breathes through his lungs. Rick Fulce traveled all the way from Amarillo for a meeting he said was important.
"You have very mixed emotions about it, I still have mixed emotions about it because you feel so sad for them. They truly loved their son and when we first met them the momma broke down and it was tough but by the same token they were very happy for us."
The hugs outnumbered tears as the topic revolved around Bryan. Family members said the man who cared so much in life, continues to give.
"It makes such a huge tragedy so much easier to know that he is living in them and he is able to allow them to watch their kids grow, and watch their grandkids grow and to be a part of their families life and that was very important to him," Woodward said.
It's a group once separated by much different lives, now joined by one common bond. The meeting was put together by Southwest Transplant Alliance, the group that helped coordinate the donations.
All of the organ recipients said they are healthy and happy and looking forward to a long life. The Vail's and all recipients say they'll continue to stay in contact with each other.