When Julie Prangl took her son, Nick, for his driver’s license, they saw a sign for organ and tissue donation. It read: “I AM. ARE YOU?” Nick joked about recycling everything and signed up. This was important because Nick’s sister, Lindsey, was wait-listed for an ankle transplant.
The family’s concern was always about Lindsey as a recipient. But the spotlight shifted to 17-year-old Nick when, in 2007, an automobile accident left him brain-dead. Julie remembered that Nick always wanted to make a difference. But she never imagined it would be like this.
“I was praying for a donor for Lindsey,” Julie explained. “And then they were checking Nick’s ankle as a match.” It wasn’t, but it was a match for a college basketball player. Nick’s heart went to a father of four, his liver saved a nine-year-old girl’s life, one kidney went to a 24-year-old woman, and the other kidney helped a 15-year-old girl.
Later that year, Julie learned they had a match for Lindsey. “We were hopeful that there would be an end to her pain,” Julie said, “but our hearts were breaking for the donor family because we knew what they were going through.” Although the transplant procedure for Lindsey failed, she had a second, successful transplant later. Now she has a full-time job, minimal pain and walks without crutches.
As an Ambassador for Hope volunteer for Gift of Hope, Julie shares stories of Nick and Lindsey. “I have experienced the heartbreak, loss, hope and awe that come from being on both sides of donation,” she explained. “I realize it’s not just a gift to the recipient and their loved ones, but also to the loved ones like us, left behind, choosing to say, ‘I am. Are you?’”