Mid-Missouri family gives gift of life through tragedy

Related Story

COLUMBIA - Gannon White was born six weeks early and weighed just three pounds, seven ounces. He spent his first few weeks in the NICU, but his parents say otherwise, he seemed healthy. His mother, Hunter Koehler said when he was four months old, her world came crashing down.   

"At 9:30 a.m. I woke up and went in his room because he wasn't crying like he usually does," Koehler said. "I went in there, and he was in the corner of his bed not moving."
An ambulance took Gannon to the hospital, and doctor's then transferred him to MU Women's and Children's Hospital. His father, Wil White, said the loss of oxygen caused him to lose brain function.
"I prayed on my hands and knees for a miracle to happen, but he wouldn't do nothing. He wouldn't wake up," Koehler said.

In the midst of their pain, Gannon's parents made the decision to use their tragedy to help someone else. They decided to donate his organs.

"Anything that was working in him we wanted to go to someone else," Koehler said. "To give somebody else an opportunity of living because no parent should have to worry about losing their baby."

"Donation does come, usually at a family's worst day," said Brooke Connell with the Midwest Transplant Network. 

"It's really hard for recipients because they know to get that gift of life, someone else had to pass away," Connell said.

While Gannon's young age made his loss even harder for his family, it also made his gift that much more special. Connell said less than 15% of organ donors in 2015 were under the age of 18, and often recipients spend months or even years waiting for a perfect match.

Gannon's parents got a letter telling them he provided that match for a five month old who got his liver, a 58 year old man who received his kidneys and a two month old boy who needed his heart.
"It helps, knowing our baby's heart is still beating," said Koehler.

Each organ donor can save the lives of up to 8 people. You can join the registry to become an organ donor at the Department of Motor Vehicles or online.