Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Gina Nall would have turned 33 today. That seems unreal to me because she is frozen in my mind as a 19-year-old. I've always referred to her as "my sister-in-law," but she died before I married her brother. Here's a column I wrote for National Organ Donation Month a couple of years ago:

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, or call 1-800-622-9010.


  • At Thu Oct 27, 05:06:00 AM, Blogger Jacinda said…

    I didn't really know Gina, but I do remember hearing of her death and feeling so sad for Chad. This is a good tribute and I 100% agree with organ donation.

    Good article.

  • At Thu Oct 27, 01:18:00 PM, Blogger stuckinthe80s said…

    I was Gina's Inter-G group leader when she was a freshman (I was a senior). We instantly connected because of our love of music. I loved her laugh most of all.

    An awesome tribute, my dear.

  • At Fri Oct 28, 01:10:00 PM, Blogger Traci said…

    Deana, I came across your blog from Kristen O Quinns. Your story made me so sad yet so happy for the organ recipients. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my sister in-law in an automobile accident and although we couldn't donate her organs, she ended up saving my husband Alan's life. He wasn't a Christian before and she always wanted Alan and I to go to church with her and my brother. After her death, we did go to church with my brother and Alan was baptized about a year to the date. Good things CAN come from tragic events!

  • At Mon Nov 14, 09:34:00 PM, Anonymous Kathryn in Alaska said…

    I want you and Chad to know that I think of her all the time. We came home from Anchorage late last night and saw the sign that they just put up for her. It was to late to take a picture, we will next time. I never really know where it happened and seeing it was hard but yet good for me. One of my memories is watching Grease and Gina's laugh sounding like a old Ford. Love you all Katie

  • At Wed Jul 09, 09:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    deana, i'm glad i found you on facebook! i got to thinking about gina, and lo and behold, here she is on the internet! i miss her. i've thought of her soooo many times....i want to tell her that i finally got to see erasure TWICE in concert, and that i FINALLY got out of texas...and then sucked back in...and that i found the man of my dreams and now have a bouncy baby boy who would LOVE to play with her. i do miss her.

    thank you for writing this, it is beautiful, and man, she would have thought the idea of her organs going to help so many people was TOTALLY groovy!

    julie (wood) stiles

  • At Mon Jul 19, 11:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I know this page is old but the memory of Gina is new and clear in my mind. My tears overwhelm me. She called me hours before the accident and promised to call when she arrived home. I still look forward to talking to her. As she lay in the hospital another good friend, Caesar (Julio), and myself sat on the beach in San Diego for hours. We didn't talk, we just waited. The beauty of the earth has little defense against the sorrows of man.

    Gina, we are all coming to see you, sooner or later, please greet me at the gates.

    Nathan (Cockrill) McWayne

  • At Tue Sep 22, 04:41:00 PM, Blogger Jeromy Cheatham said…

    I accompanied Gina on a few of those overnight concert trips that ended just before morning class. She would have been, and was in fact, a very very good friend. That laugh is more real still than the photo I can look at any time I want.

    I wish I had done right by you dear one. You were among three I lost to cars in a short time, and I just couldn't deal. But you aren't one to hold a grudge. Thank you.

    See you when the time is right,
    Jeromy Cheatham

  • At Mon May 30, 05:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I met Gina when I transferred to Kenai High School. We had choir together. She was such a light! Everyone loved her. She welcomed me and became a close friend. I think of her often and what a sweet and kind spirit she was.


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