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After losing her son to suicide, this mom is advocating the importance of donating organs

Saving lives through tragedy
Posted at 6:48 AM, Apr 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-27 14:41:14-04

GEORGETOWN, TX — Jacki James went through the worst thing any mother could, losing her son Peyton James.

The words James would use to describe her son are silly, goofy and very smart. He was born 9 weeks early, only weighing a little more than 2 pounds, and he would grow up with a condition called intrauterine growth retardation. Doctors told James that because of his size and early birth either his brain or body would grow as quickly as the other.

"Thankfully his brain grew and his body was just real small," James said. "But his body would catch up to him as he got older."

There's nothing but great things to say when talking about 13-year-old Peyton, although he had a hard time fitting in with the other classmates. They would bully him because of the way he looked.

"He wasn't your typical kid he was always a little left of center," James said.

Peyton told his parents about the bullying at his school, words of encouragement and some counseling visits seemed to help but in the end were of little success. When his mom thought things were getting better, they got worse, and Peyton took his own life in October 2014.

"My life has fundamentally changed to my very core. I am not the same person I was 4 and a half years ago," James said.

With heartache that will never go away, there is still hope that Peyton lives on. When James knew Peyton would not be coming back, she chose to donate his organs to others fighting for life.

He would go on to save six lives and help countless others through tissue donation.

James didn't hesitate to donate her son's organs because she remembered a conversation she had with him a few months back.

"We were watching a show about organ donation," James said. "He asked what that meant and when I told him he sat and he thought about it for a minute and he said, 'that's pretty cool' and then he thought a little bit more and he says 'you think I can do that?'"

A day that feels like it was yesterday. She'll also never forget the one person from the hospital staff that never left Peyton's side.

"He was a nurse named Irl," James said. "He spelled it i-r-l, and in Peyton's video game world means 'in real life,' and I thought Peyton would think that was pretty funny."

Even though Irl's shift was over around 6 p.m., he stayed until the scheduled surgery at 8 p.m., walking Peyton all the way down to the operating room.

"He knew I wouldn't want Peyton to be alone," James said.

As James left the hospital she saw two helicopters and an ambulance ready for Peyton to save lives.

"It's a little bittersweet to know the worst day of my life was the best day of someone elses," James said

Almost 5 years later, James has one wish and an everlasting pride for her son.

"I long for the day to meet the person who got his heart," James said. "Whatever these people do whatever they go on and accomplish in their life a little bit is because of Peyton and again makes me very proud of him."

James will never completely heal from her son's death, but she doesn't blame any one that played a part in his bullying.

"I received a call late one night in November of last year," James said.

It was one of Peyton's classmates, admitting to her that he took part in the bullying. He was friends with the primary bully and participated.

"He did it because the other kid was popular and wanted to be apart of that group," James said. "The remorse that I heard in his voice the apology, I didn't hate him."

She won't forget what his classmates did, but she forgave him.

TEXAS ORGAN SHARING ALLIANCE

James has met and talked with some of the people that Peyton's organs helped save. An organization called the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance (TOSA) works with families to help them in their worst time and others at their best.

When a loved one passes on and is either registered to donate or the family has chosen to donate, TOSA will send a letter to the mourning family thanking them for their donation and a small description of the ones that were saved.

"We've had donor families tell us before that it is the one positive thing to come out of there tragedy and it gives them some sort of comfort in moving forward and knowing that their loved one left a legacy here on Earth," said Michelle Segovia, Director of Communications with TOSA.

It gives the family donating and the other families receiving the donation the ability to write back and forth to each other and possibly meet. James met a little girl who got one of his cornea's. She recently got a letter from the woman who received his lungs and met the man who got one of his kidneys.

"When I met him...that's when I finally began to heal," James said.

James has written to everyone that Peyton saved and she has heard back from a some and met a few others.

"The silver lining in his death, if there is one, is that others got to live because of his donation," James said.

TOSA expresses the importance year round, advocating others to be organ donors because one person has the power to save eight lives and help at least 50 others.

In Texas alone there's around 11,000 people needing and waiting for that donation, according to TOSA, and an average of 22 people die each day because they did not receive a donation on time.

To register as an organ donor you can do so here.
You can learn more about the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance here.

KINDNESS MATTERS

James chose to create an organization called Kindness Matters. Instead of it being an anti-bullying campaign she chose to make it a pro-kindness message.

She speaks at many different schools talking about her and her son's story hoping to spread more kindness and prevent the future of bullying.

"The more we talk about bullying and suicide the more you don't have to talk about it," James said.

For more information on Kindness Matters and their mission visit their website.