Jeri’ Williams always wanted four children and was blessed with two sons and two daughters. After the death of son Trenton, her family has grown to include the people whose lives her son’s organs saved.
The first was Ken Howard, who received Trenton Williams’ liver and kidney shortly after Trenton died in an accident on Oct. 12, 2012. The 41-year retired veteran of law enforcement had waited for two years after cancer destroyed his kidney and liver disease sickened him further. Today, he is healthy and grateful.
“Trenton gave me a liver and kidney and he kept me alive,” Howard said.
Howard, his daughter and son-in-law joined the Williams family at Mercy Hospital Fort Smith in November for a celebration and ceremony to bring awareness to the importance of organ donation. Howard will be among two dozen organ recipients to ride this year on the Donate Life float in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. His trip will be paid in part by Trenton’s Legacy, a foundation that Jeri’ Williams started to help organ donor recipients and raise awareness about organ donation.
In addition, the float will carry a portrait of Trenton Williams known as a “floragraph” that is made entirely of natural materials, including grains, rice, spices and seeds. The Williams family, guests and Mercy co-workers took turns adding to the background of the floragraph during the awareness event.
One of Jeri’ Williams’ goals is to make sure people have considered organ donation before they are in the position to make a decision about it. She learned that Trenton had designated himself as an organ donor on his drivers license at the same time she learned doctors couldn’t save him. He was 24. Representatives from ARORA, the Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency, talked her through her reservations and continue to support the family today.
“If someone is aware before they’re faced with tragedy, it would be easier. I want them to know our story so they will be able to think about that. I’m so thankful Trenton’s organs were given to give life. It does help us to heal,” she said.
Also attending the ceremony to decorate Trenton’s floragraph was Keith Griffis, a former intensive care unit nurse who received Trenton’s second kidney. He put off meeting Jeri’ and her family for years because of his complicated recovery from the transplant. He didn’t want the mother who lost her son to see him so sick, he said.
Keith brought several family members to meet Jeri’ and to say thank you in person.
“I wanted her to see me healthy,” he said. “And right now, I feel like a million bucks.”
The Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, will be broadcast at 10 a.m. Jan. 2 on major networks. Check local listings to tune in.
See more photographs of the awareness event here.