Heroes on Foot: Running for Jordan Saved me
Written and released in three sections, Tyler shares the last part of his story on our blog as the Dash for Donation approaches on July 13.
This blog post kicks off stories of Dash for Donation Heroes on Foot. The story features the personal journey that led Tyler Ross to run and win the 5K Dash for Donation race for the first time in 2011. A true Hero on Foot, Tyler has participated in Dash for Donation events since and encourages people to register as organ, eye and tissue donors in his community.
Read on for the third part of Tyler’s story:
When I was a freshman in high school, I made the varsity cross-country team. While naturally talented, I hated running. I didn’t know at the time my new neighbors, two cool, older boys and our strong friendship would give me a reason to run.
The new boys across the street invited me to hang out that year, and instantly I felt like part of their group. From that point on, I was with them all the time. Jordan was the younger of the two and I naturally gravitated toward him. Jordan took me under his wing and was the big brother I never had. Students in school began to think we were brothers, so we went along with it. Jordan took me to school every day, picked me up from practices and we hung out every weekend. I felt so cool to be allowed in the same car with him, let alone be someone he called his brother.
Running, however, was not going as smoothly as my building friendship with Jordan. I did everything in my power to not run at practice. I’d hide with friends when my coach would tell me to run, behavior present not just in running but in all aspects of my life. I carelessly went through the motions of life.
Unfortunately, it took a tragic phone call to change my careless attitude.
It was Sunday morning, way too early. The frantic sound of my dad’s voice told me to get up because Jordan had gotten into an accident. I got up and walked outside but thought he’s got a broken bone maybe, some bumps and bruises, no big deal. The awkward hug my mom and dad gave me made me uncomfortable. My parents said Jordan was in a bad accident. He hit his head and was in the hospital. I sat in the back of the car speechless, not knowing what to think, do, say or act. At the hospital, I couldn’t immediately gather the courage to go see Jordan, so I sat in a corner of the room thinking with my head down. There is no way this is supposed to happen, I thought, he’s going to be fine; he’s my brother. Thankfully, Jordan gave me strength to get up out of my chair and be with him during his last moments.
Jordan died that day and gave the greatest gift of life: he was an organ, eye and tissue donor.
The next 24 hours were very strange. Jordan’s absence left me feeling bare and empty inside. I went to a school gathering for Jordan with about 200 people in attendance but I didn’t understand how people were crying and sad when they didn’t even know Jordan. If they are feeling this, I thought, what should I be feeling? I didn’t know the answer. Stepping out of the car on the way home, I broke down in a wave of emotion. I quickly composed myself because I was so scared to let my friends and family see me vulnerable.
That day, I knew I couldn’t hold everything in.
Running came to my rescue.
I never really understood running before the accident. Formerly a workout or punishment, now running was an escape, a release, my own world. No one was there to judge me.
The next few days were hard after Jordan passed. I felt like a zombie just watching someone else’s life. But at track practice after school, I ran and ran and ran. Running helped me release so many emotions and find momentary peace with the idea that Jordan gave life to someone else through his gift. What did I have to show for my life? Laziness, I thought. I wanted to change that. I wanted to change me. I wanted to live my life for Jordan.
I ran over 300 miles that summer, determined and focused, and came out ready to run my junior cross country season. I achieved a personal record (PR) immediately. I was the team’s number one runner, winning races and competing with some of the fastest athletes in the state.
I achieved a very successful academic and athletic high school career because of the drastic change in my lifestyle and attitude. I was accepted into the University of Cincinnati where I currently run cross country and track. If you would have told me my freshman year of high school that I would be running division one cross country and track in college, I would have laughed at you. Now, I cannot see my life being any other way.
My “second set of parents,” Jordan’s family, asked me to run the Dash for Donation 5K race a few summers ago to honor Jordan’s donation legacy. Little did I know when I got to the start line, Jordan’s dad said he would donate $5,000 in my name if I won the race. While the Dash for Donation had more than 3,000 participants and some talented runners, I knew I had to win.
I felt like I was flying. Jordan carried me through the race without pause. My joy brought my hands into the shape of a heart for Jordan as I crossed the finish line first. Jordan’s dad donated $10,000 for Jordan in my name that day to raise awareness for organ, eye and tissue donation!
I still have Jordan on my mind and I always wear his memorial bracelet on my wrist. I miss Jordan very much and I hope he is keeping an eye on me. I would hope he would tell me he is proud of me.
That’s all I want: for him to be proud.
You too can be a Hero on Foot like Tyler and run, walk or volunteer in the 2013 Dash for Donation. Registration is now open! Click here for details.
Want to be a hero of donation? Register now as an organ, eye and tissue donor.