Organ donation makes teen’s death a life legacy

Carrie Nance helped six people with her decision to donate her organs

Carrie Nance, memorialized on her father, Scott Nance's motorcycle, died in 2004 and donated her organs. (KOIN 6)
Carrie Nance, memorialized on her father, Scott Nance's motorcycle, died in 2004 and donated her organs. (KOIN 6)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Scott Nance will tell you about the time he got a call from the school principal’s office after his daughter, Carrie Nance, beat up two students for pushing a disabled student.

To this day, his daughter continues to help people who can’t help themselves — although the teen died tragically in a car accident 10 years ago.

Carrie Nance was able to help six people in need of organs with a decision her family made on her behalf: two cornea recipients, two kidney recipients, a liver recipient and a heart valve recipient.

Scott Nance has turned 16-year-old Carrie’s memory into a new legacy, sharing her story to raise awareness for organ donation.

Donate Life program director Stephen Rice said the need for organ donors is sharply on the rise as the population ages in 2014.

Currently, 123,000 people are on the donor waitlist nationwide, while more than 100,000 of those on the list await kidney donation. Meanwhile, 2.2 million donors are registered in Oregon.

Wednesday morning, KOIN 6 Meteorologist Sally Showman will host Donate Life’s annual Life Saver’s Breakfast, where Nance is to deliver the keynote speech.

The conversation

It’s a conversation people put off, until the unthinkable happens. But, when someone is in desperate need, a family member can be taxed with donating an organ.

Donate Life relies on volunteers to raise awareness and recruit donors, Rice said.

He said personal stories can factor into peoples’ decisions to donate their organs, and volunteers work constantly to get the message out.

Carrie’s decision

Scott Nance told Carrie during her sophomore year of high school how he received a letter from a woman who now saw through his mother’s cornea.

Carrie Nance in an undated photo. The 16-year-old died in 2004 and donated her organs. (Courtesy: Scott Nance)
Carrie Nance in an undated photo. The 16-year-old died in 2004 and donated her organs. (Courtesy: Scott Nance)

Nance’s mother, Carrie’s grandmother, had been an organ donor.

“She wrote ‘words cannot express the feelings and emotions that went through my body when the doctors pulled the patch off and I could see my babies and children for the first time,’” Nance said.

“When I got that letter I became a believer in organ and tissue donation.”

Carrie expressed her desire to be a donor, to give someone else a second chance at life.

The day came, in August, 2004. Carrie was involved in a serious car accident in Colorado — 19-year-old Sean Nance flipped the family’s SUV at 80 miles per hour.

Gut reactions

Nance said although he knew Carrie wanted to donate her organs, when he was faced with the decision, he “freaked.”

“I lost it,” he said.

“The thought of them, doctors, touching her anymore, hurting her anymore, doing anything else to her — I just wigged out and totally lost it.”

While he was under distress, Nance felt a scratch — the special signal he and Carrie had when they were riding his Harley and he did something she didn’t like.

“I had to turn around and look to see that it wasn’t really her because I felt it that much,” he said.

“I felt it just like if we were on the bike.”

Nance said in that moment, he knew what his daughter wanted.

That day, when her family could no longer do anything to help her, Carrie became a gift to six people who needed help from her.

For more information on organ donation, visit Donate Life online.

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