By Deana Nall
The Baytown Sun
Published on April 28, 2004
Gina Nall would have been the coolest sister-in-law.
I met Gina in college when I started dating her older brother. Gina and Chad were only 11 months apart, but it was hard to believe they both came from the same parents.
Unlike her straight-laced brother, Gina was a little unconventional. She wore tie-dyed shirts, corn-rowed her hair and drove three hours to rock concerts when she had 8 a.m. classes the next day.
Gina was a trip. We couldn't spend a few seconds together without dissolving into giggles over something stupid. We thought it was funny that our first names rhymed. The two of us once ate a whole box of strawberry Pop-Tarts in one sitting.
Toward the end of the summer of 1992, I flew to Chad's and Gina's hometown of Kenai, Alaska, to meet their family and see the sites. Chad and I had secretly made plans to get engaged later in the fall, and we were going to share the news with Gina when we had a moment alone with her.
But that would have to wait. Gina wanted to spend a few days with friends in Anchorage before returning to school in Texas with Chad and me.
But she never made it back. On her way home, Gina fell asleep, ran off the road and hit a tree. She died at an Anchorage hospital two days later. She was 19.
The day Gina's family decided to take her off life support is a blur to me, but I do remember filing into a room with her family to discuss organ donation. Her parents gave consent to donate her corneas as well as her kidneys, liver and heart.
In the days, weeks and months following Gina's accident, organ donation was forgotten amid the mind-numbing grief and the succession of morbid events that accompanied her death: the funeral, cleaning out her bedroom, returning to school without her, and going ahead with wedding plans that we never had the chance to tell her about.
But then Gina's parents began receiving letters from the recipients of her organs. A surgeon whose failing vision had forced him to quit working was able to take up his livelihood again -- thanks to Gina's corneas. Another man had received Gina's heart and was looking forward to watching his grandchildren grow up. He's 74 now.
The woman who received Gina's liver is also still going strong at age 79. Just recently, my father-in-law learned that both kidney recipients, a man in Hawaii and a woman in California, have passed away. The kidney transplants extended their lives for at least ten years, and they both died of something other than kidney failure.
Losing Gina was horrible. But five families have had their prayers answered through the donation of her organs. And I can live with that.
In fact, a lot of people could live with someone else's organs -- 82,000 adults and 1,000 children under 10, according to the National Kidney Foundation. To learn how to sign up to be a donor, and to learn about every type of organ donation, visit the National Kidney Foundation at www.kidney.org, or call 1-800-622-9010.