Running for Our Superman – Rob Gates, Jr.
My brother Rob was the prankster of the family. He was always joking around, laughing and having a good time. He was the oldest of three siblings and always protected my sister and me. He constantly put others before himself – even in his untimely death.
March 20, 2001 was the last time I would see my brother alive. My grandma, Rob and I had lunch together that day. They were both fussing over my three-week-old son. It was a completely normal interaction for us until he went to leave. I was washing dishes when he came over, put his arms on my shoulders, kissed my head and told me that he loved me so much. What 24-year-old guy says that to his sister? I felt that something was different. It’s almost as if he knew that was our last time together.
That night he stayed at his best friend’s house to go golfing in the morning. Rob and his friend decided to drive to the golf course separately. As his best friend was driving behind him, Rob lost control of his vehicle and was ejected. Police reports say that another driver may have pulled out in front of him.
After being in a coma for five days, Rob succumbed to his injuries. He was a registered organ donor. I thought about the day he renewed his driver’s license. He came home and was waving his license in my face with a smile chanting, “I am an organ donor!” over and over again. On March 26, 2001, Rob became a superhero through his gift of organ donation.
Losing my brother was the darkest and lowest point of my life. We have a very tight knit family and this was a devastating loss. Rob had just become an uncle for the first time to my son,Austin. I credit Austin with saving my life and Rob for leading me into my current profession – I am a medical assistant for a lung/liver/intestine transplant center in Northeast Ohio.
A couple of weeks after Rob passed away, we received a letter that gave brief descriptions of each of his four organ recipients. That was the most bittersweet moment for my family. He had given four complete strangers a new chance because his gifts had saved their lives. WOW!
Five and a half years after Rob’s death, we received a letter from Rob’s kidney/pancreas recipient, Fred Girscht. He wanted to meet us, so we arranged a meeting at our home through the organization that helped facilitate Rob’s donation.
I will never forget when we met Fred on that Sunday in January of 2006. As we watched his van pull into our driveway, our hearts were racing and all of our emotions were bundled up into this one moment. Terrified. Excited. Happy. Sad. Nervous. And then, he walked up to the house. Trembling, I opened the door. It was an instant connection. We had felt as if we had known Fred our whole lives! We hugged and cried. A part of my brother was standing right before our eyes, alive and well. We shared stories, laughed and cried some more. Fred enjoys the same interests as Rob – he loves golfing and is a big goof just like him. Fred even learned to love tomatoes, which he never liked before. Tomatoes were always one of Rob’s favorite snacks.
Since we’ve met Fred, he has been a part of all that we do. He has run multiple half and full marathons just to celebrate his gift of life and honor my brother. We join Fred every year in various events for organ donation, including the Dash for Donation on TEAM SUPERMAN. This July, we will be representing Rob with the LARGEST Dash team! There are 186 of us who are running and walking for OUR SUPERMAN! Rob will forever be just that – our hero.
You too could be a superhero one day and save lives just like Rob. Register as an organ, eye and tissue donor by saying “yes” at the BMV or clicking here to register online.