By Ashleigh Kerrigan, recipient sister

AshleighI am a proud member of the Buckeyes for Life student group at The Ohio State University. Organ, eye and tissue donation is very dear to me – my younger brother Brandon went from being a perfectly healthy fifteen-year old to needing a heart transplant practically overnight.

In August 2013, Brandon was diagnosed with a case of walking pneumonia. After five days on antibiotics my mom took him to the hospital – he still wasn’t feeling well and didn’t seem to be getting better. Many tests were conducted and he was soon diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. Our family was shocked.

Due to complications at the hospital, my brother was flown by helicopter from our town in Maryland to the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. While en route on the helicopter, he went into cardiac arrest twice but was thankfully revived.

Brandon gives the thumbs up before transplant

Brandon gives the thumbs up before transplant

For the next five months, doctors tried everything to reverse the swelling of his heart, however they were not able to do so. Eventually, Brandon had to have a ventricular assist device implanted to keep him alive while our family waited for a heroic heart donor. He wasn’t going to leave the hospital until he received the Gift of Life.

On December 17, 2013 we got the call – a heart was available! My family was extremely thankful that Brandon would be receiving the Gift of Life. My grandmother had just passed away the week before, we felt it was no coincidence he received one so quickly. It was a great comfort. For Brandon, he remembers being grateful to his donor because he knew how many people die while waiting for their second chance at life.

The transplant was successful and Brandon began the road to recovery. “Recovery was long and hard. I’m three years out and I am now just getting into the shape I wanted to be in a year out. I am very appreciative to all the doctors and nurses that were involved in the transplant process, and especially my donor.”

Brandon's Make-a-Wish trip to meet the Boston Red Sox!

Brandon’s Make-a-Wish trip to meet the Boston Red Sox!

Since the transplant, we have corresponded with our donor family and are very thankful to their loved one for saving my brother’s life. Brandon is here because of that person and we will never forget them.

Brandon is now a freshman at the University of West Virginia with a second chance at life! He is the reason I joined Buckeyes for Life, and he is the reason I will always promote awareness for organ donation.

Won’t you please consider registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor? Who knows? You could save a life like my brother’s one day.