By Debbie Sohovich

My message is one of hope and love. My heart aches with the memories of my son, Dustin, but swells with pride and love that his spirit, through the gift he gave to others, lives on.

On April 30, 2007 my life, as I knew it, changed forever. My first born and only son, Dustin Hart, 27 years old, was in his car at a stop sign and was shot in the head. His killers have not yet been charged with his murder. His death was a tragedy, with far reaching effects.

That day, when we got the call, it was like a blur – moving in slow motion and at the same time extremely fast, and at the end of the day, we had lost my strong, handsome, loving son.

Dustin and I had never talked about organ donation. None of us in the family ever did, but in the surgical ICU at The Ohio State University Medical Center on that fateful day, we were introduced to an amazing organization. After Dustin was declared brain dead, a sweet, caring representative of Lifeline of Ohio came in with a level of professionalism, rarely exhibited today, and asked us if we would consider organ donation. It was with a heavy heart and eyes sore from the events of the day that we said, “yes” without hesitation. We had no idea what saying “yes” meant that day, but we soon realized it.

Debbie in her Clintonville home

In the following weeks, coping with Dustin’s funeral arrangements, trying to move forward with a huge piece of our hearts missing and trying to deal with the tragedy that befell us, I received a letter from Lifeline of Ohio. What an amazing afternoon! I had completely forgotten that we had donated his organs. The letter stated that Dustin was able to donate seven organs!

When the concept of this finally hit me, I realized that seven people were able to continue on with their lives all because of my son! These good people were within days of losing their battle with life and, like a knight in shining armor, Dustin swooped in and gave the most valiant gift ever ~ the ‘Gift of Life!’ There is no greater gift and no gift more selfless on this earth that one person could give to another!

The impact of my family’s personal tragedy changed us forever and allowed me to get involved with Lifeline of Ohio. I learned firsthand how important organ donation is and wanted to be a part of getting the word out to help save more lives.

I was fortunate; I am one of the lucky ones and was able to meet three of the recipients of Dustin’s organs. They are wonderful, amazing people who still have unfinished business here on earth. I met one man who received Dustin’s pancreas and one kidney, due to diabetes, another man who received his left lung, and I was able to place my ear to the chest of the man who received Dustin’s heart and felt it beating, ever so strong.

I never tire of hearing stories of people who have been touched by donation, for without their stories, it would be impossible to keep the gift of life going. I don’t know how anyone, could deny life to another human being. Needless to say, now everyone in my family, all my friends, coworkers and neighbors are organ and tissue donors, and I will continue to spread my story to help someone else have a story to tell. Because, I believe, Dustin would want it that way