Teen’s legacy lives on through organ donation

Missy Jewell didn’t have any idea a conversation she had with her 16-year-old son at the Department of Motor Vehicles would help save four people’s lives.

Jewell said she talked with her son Reese Gorman at the DMV when he opted to be an organ donor before he received his driver’s license. Four days later, Gorman was in an accident and died tragically from complications following the accident.

“After his accident, because he was an organ donor, but he was underage, they had to ask me if I was okay with it, and if I hadn’t had that conversation with him at the DMV, I don’t know that I could have made the decision not knowing his wishes,” Jewell recalled. “But because I did know his wishes, he was able to save four people’s lives.”

Jewell recalled that after her son’s death, she connected with the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (LOPA). She said Lori Steele, who is a spokesperson for LOPA, involved her in sharing Gorman’s story and educating others about organ donation.

Steele encouraged Jewell to attend Woody Overton’s third annual krewe bash where Overton celebrates his birthday but it is also a fundraising event for LOPA.

“In 2022, I went and spoke at his birthday bash, and got to talk about Reese and share his story,” Jewell said. “They invited me to come back again in 2023.”

At the Krewe Bash, Jewell said she met LOPA raffle sponsor Shane McBride with Maclar Whitetail Adventures in Wisconsin.

Maclar Whitetail Adventures donated a four-day turkey hunt in Wisconsin, as well as a four-day whitetail deer hunt in Wisconsin for the 2022-2023 hunting season. The value of this donation is over $16,000.

Jewell said she shared a letter with McBride expressing how much Reese loved to fish. She said she bought a ton of raffle tickets hoping to win the whitetail deer hunt to invite Reese’s kidney recipient, Jacob.

Jewell said she shared the letter she had written to Reese’s kidney recipient and he ended up surprising her and showed up at the Krewe Bash.

After speaking with Jewell a few times, McBride said he decided to start a yearly hunt in Reese’s name.

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“It’ll be the Reese Gorman Annual Whitetail Hunt,” he said. “It’ll be for either recipients of organ donation or a family member of an organ donor. When I heard the story, it really broke my heart. So I really wanted her to come out, not only her but her other son Jack and the young man that got the kidney and his mom to come out here and do a hunt.”

McBride and Jewell said there is so much information about organ donation that needs to be shared. Because of that fact, the two of them are recording videos for a YouTube channel they are starting centered around organ donation and Jewell’s story. The channel is called “Reese Gorman, A Life, A Legacy, A Hero Through Organ Donation.”

Both of them said there are myths about organ donation that they debunk in their videos. As of Feb. 22, they’ve recorded two episodes. Jewell pointed out that LOPA does a lot more for families than just organ donation and that people over 50 can still save lives by donating their organs, too.

“Most people who are 50 or 60, they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m too old. You know, they’re not going to want my stuff,’ so they don’t do it,” Jewell said. “Believe it or not, more people over the age of 50 have saved lives than people under the age of 50.”

McBride said the YouTube videos have people wanting to share their stories as well.

“We’ve got so many people who want to come on board to interview or just to tell their story on Zoom and tell their story about their organ donation and their life,” McBride said. “She wants to help other people. You don’t see that anymore. How often do you see somebody that loses a son or a daughter or even a loved one that goes out and pushes to the world, “Hey, I can help you. I’ve been here, done it and organ donation is a big deal.’ Even though not everybody does it, I’m going to show you why it’s a big deal. To me, that’s a hero in itself.”

In addition to meeting her son’s kidney recipient, Jewell said she’s met Reese’s heart recipient. She said meeting them allows her to celebrate a part of her son’s legacy.

“It’s being able to celebrate the beautiful life that my son aided and allowing them to continue and to have new firsts and to have children, marriages, families, you know, all because of my son’s decision to be an organ donor,” she said. “I’m sad that I don’t have my son. I’ve accepted that he’s not coming back, but I have to say it gives me joy to be able to celebrate the lives that he saved, and knowing that they’ll live on because of my son.”

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