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Jon Patrick Lyons – Donor

Photo of JonOur 36-year-old son Jon Patrick Lyons suffered massive brain trauma on Wednesday, April 14, 2010 from a motorcycle accident. He was not wearing a DOT helmet; instead, it was one commonly called a “brain catcher” because it offers little to no protection. He’d sold his DOT helmet just the week before because he’d decided not to ride any more. He loved to ride but his friends just wanted to ride to a bar and he didn’t drink so he told us he was going to garage the bike and put his time into his “new” bass boat. We will never know why he was riding that night, except that it was a gorgeous evening. Spring was in the air and the temperature was balmy. An SUV driven by a young man, just 20 years old, pulled out in front of him on Taylorsville Road and JonP hit the passenger side of the car head-on. One of the first responders happened to be a friend of his and recognized the bike. He later told me that JonP was unresponsive at the scene.

The trauma team at University Hospital worked long and hard to give him every chance of survival, taking him straight from the ambulance to surgery where a portion of his skull was removed to accomodate his swelling brain. Around 2AM he was brought to a room in the trauma ICU and was put on a respirator and two trees full of various IV bags. He remained unresponsive although he was breathing above the respirator the first 36 hours. Then the respirator began to breathe for him. On Friday throughout the day the trauma doctors ran several tests, looking for some sign of brain activity but each test showed none and finally we were told he was brain dead on April 16, 2010.

During those long hours by his bedside, his dad, his brother Sean and I talked about donating JonP’s organs. We didn’t know his wishes, although we knew him well enough to know he wouldn’t disagree, and so we asked to speak to an Organ Donation representative. As soon as we were told he was brain dead, the process began to procure his organs–the many, many questions about him and his lifestyle, his health, his habits–good and bad, his sex life–we had no idea, but we did know that he was a “natural” body builder, using no steroids, was healthy as a horse and strong as an ox. At 5’4″, he was built like a fire plug! At last the questions were over, and we were free to leave. I couldn’t, though–not just yet. I’d not had any time alone with him–so many of his friends came to cry, to say goodbye, to tell stories about him–over those two and a-half days, that I just never had the opportunity. I didn’t want to leave. There is so much I wish I’d said and done. I wish I’d washed the blood from his face; I wish I could have gotten closer to him to give him a proper hug. I wish I’d cried more instead of keeping it all in. But, I remembered my mother’s words from my grandfather’s funeral in 1967. “We don’t cry in public.”

At the time we knew that organ donation was the right thing to do, but we knew no organ recipients or other donors, so we had no insight into the impact it would have. Many people described us as brave and strong, but we didn’t see it until we met Jon’s recipients. We met a young woman who’d received one of his kidneys first – who told us she had been able to spend Mother’s Day with her family rather than on dialysis for the first time since her then 9-year-old daughter had been born. She had gotten a tattoo of the green donor ribbon on the top of her foot along with her new birthdate, 4/18/2010. Amazing!

In April, 2011, KODA made arrangements for us to meet JonP’s heart recipient. The meeting was filmed by WHAS-TV and parts shown that night during the news. Mike, Sean, and I were each allowed to listen to Jon’s heart beat. It was at that moment that we realized in our hearts that indeed, donating his organs was the right thing to do! The recipient asked me if my son had taken good care of himself, and I had to laugh as I told him yes, Jon was a bodybuilder. Why do you ask? He replied that since he received the heart, he wanted to do nothing but walk and walk!