Donation Provides Glimmer of Hope After Devastating Loss

Kelly Sawyer | Tissue and research donor

Donna and Kelly Sawyer Jr. shared an amazing love story. They first started dating the summer of their senior year in high school, and five years later they married. They grew so close over time, they could finish each other’s thoughts.

Kelly Sawyer

Their love story continued as they built a life full of trips to the beach, yard work, trying out local microbreweries, and caring for their two dogs. While they did a lot together, they had individual interests as well. Donna loved quilting and cooking, while Kelly played racquet ball and enjoyed a good bourbon. He was a sports fan and listened to all types of music.

Kelly was a natural cheerleader. He always had a kind, encouraging word and could often be heard telling someone, “You got this!”

“1 Corinthians 13:4 says love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude — and that was Kelly,” said Donna.

Following a hard year — dealing with the pandemic, caring for ailing parents, and losing both of their dogs, who were like four-legged children to them — the unthinkable happened. On July 31, 2022, the Sawyers were home on cloudy Sunday when Kelly suddenly got dizzy and collapsed. Donna called 911 and performed CPR. A team of rescue personnel arrived, and they worked hard, but they could not save Kelly. Ventricular fibrillation was the cause of his untimely death at only 54.

After being married for 32 years, Donna was coming home to an empty house. She was devastated, along with all their family and friends.

Just after Kelly passed, Donna’s sister, Charlene, thought to ask if Kelly was an organ donor. Thankfully he was, and the hospital personnel were notified to begin the process of contacting LifeNet Health.

So far, Kelly’s gifts have changed more than 180 lives through tissue, cornea, and research donation. His heart valves gave two children a second chance at life. A bone graft helped a man walk again without pain. The gift of his brain has the potential to support groundbreaking research that could impact hundreds, if not thousands.

Perhaps most fitting of all, Kelly’s corneas have restored sight for two people. “Those eyes were very special to me!” said Donna. “To think that twinkle that I love may still shine on fills my heart with joy!”

Donna has learned a lot since becoming a donor wife. She knows Kelly’s story is an opportunity to start conversations to educate and inspire others to give the gift of life. While Donna continues to brave the storm that is grief, her optimism is slowing returning. She loves receiving news of Kelly helping more recipients. “It is something I look forward to,” said Donna. “He lives on, and I know he would be so happy knowing he helped somebody.”