When Melissa Rose Stockton got her first driver’s license, she signed up to be an organ donor. When Missy, as she was known to family and friends, passed away on February 3, 2017, her heart, lungs, liver, kidney/pancreas and kidney all went immediately to recipients who had been on waiting lists for organ transplants.
Although Missy’s death brought immense sorrow to her family, they took comfort in knowing that she was still helping people through her donations. Her mother, Debbie Stockton, knew that Missy had taught all of them a huge lesson: “To give after you no longer can!”
Courtney Joyce was 15½ when she received Missy’s liver. She’d been on a waiting list for two years, knowing that if she didn’t get a new liver she would not live to graduate high school. Following the surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, Courtney’s doctors said the liver was a perfect match, and there have been no complications since. She’ll graduate as a cosmetologist from Essex Technical Institute in Danvers, MA.
Debbie Stockton gathers her “new, bigger family” together. From left: her son, Bob; her daughter, Katie; and organ donation recipients Zach Hays; Richard Grimard; and Courtney Joyce (Eric Zengota photo).
Richard Grimard, who received Missy’s heart at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, had been waiting for five months. His “miracle,” he says, was one of timing. “I was at the top of the priority list of 32 but with only one hour left of my status. If I didn’t have the transplant, I would have gone to the bottom of the list to wait all over again.” All of his follow-up appointments have found him in excellent health.
Zach Hays waited several months to receive Missy’s lungs. “Mine were in a bad state, I was down to 100 pounds, but not listed as critical because I was still working. But suddenly I went downhill very fast.” Then he got a 24-hour notice that he’d have the transplant surgery at Brigham and Women’s. Since then, “I go back every three or four months. Just last week I went and was doing well. Plus I’m feeling 100 times better.”
The three recipients joined Missy’s mother, sister Katie, brother Bob, and friends of the family on Saturday in Claremont. They not only celebrated Missy’s life and long-lasting generosity, but also watched as Debbie and Katie completed Missy’s floragraph, which is her portrait made up of tiny dried flowers and seeds.
Kelley Green, manager of aftercare services at New England Donor Services, explained how a floragraph comes to be. “NEDS sponsors a family every year for the float project, which started in 2004. We sent Missy’s photo to a volunteer artist in California who scanned it and worked up an outline from the digitized version. She filled in all the facial features except the eyebrows. Today, Missy’s family will add them to make a full portrait.”
Missy’s floragraph will be one of 44 to be installed on this year’s float, Light in the Darkness, which will be part of the 131st Rose Parade on New Year’s Day 2020, in Pasadena, CA. Just before the parade, fresh flowers will be added to complete the overall design. Missy’s family will fly out to meet other donor families and watch the parade. Afterward, the floragraph will be framed and placed in a shadow box, then sent to the Stockton family.
NEDS, an organ procurement organization in Waltham, MA, is one of 51 OPOs nationwide. Their registry is linked to the national UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing). Pam Albert, NEDS director of aftercare services, said, “The list of individuals who need transplant surgery is grouped first by blood type, then most-to-least critical, then transplant centers across the country. At any one time, the list has up to 126,000 names. About 7,000 of them are from New England, and of those, a kidney is the most-needed organ.”
To become an organ donor, arrange with your state division of motor vehicles to have the designation on your driver’s license, or visit registerme.org.