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Gift of life: Donor’s family, recipient share experience

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, April 13, 2019

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Brandon Aeling recalls the radiant personality of his sister Bailie Jackson Samford and her never-ending love for her son Jasper.

“She was a beautiful soul unlike any you’ve ever encountered,” Aeling said. “She’d brighten a room 10 times brighter than the sun anytime she walked in.”

SHARING A BOND – Brandon Aeling and Lynn Guzik listen to “Amazing Grace” during Wise Health System’s celebration of Donate Life Month. Guzik was the recipient of Aeling’s sister Bailie Jackson Samford’s heart after she died from injuries sustained during a November 2017 accident. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

On Nov. 24, 2017, the day after Thanksgiving, Bailie died from injuries sustained in a two-vehicle accident in New Fairview. But as Aeling explained to a crowd outside Wise Health System in Decatur Tuesday, her life took a new form allowing a new beginning for others that day with the donation of her organs.

“I had no idea during one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life that the concept of organ donation would shine a light during absolute darkness,” Aeling said.

“My heart was forever transformed and a new passion for sharing the value of organ donation was born. I feel it is my duty as Bailie’s little brother to spread the word and inform anyone and everyone who will listen about the most precious gift this world has to offer – the gift of life.”

One of the lives Bailie was credited with saving is Lynn Guzik. The Houston area woman received Bailie’s heart. Guzik joined Aeling and other members of Bailie’s family Tuesday at the hospital’s celebration of Donate Life Month.

“I’m blessed to receive Bailie’s heart,” Guzik said. “When I got news, I was probably not more than a month away from dying from heart failure. I remember the doctor coming and practically jumping in the air saying he had found the perfect match.

“I remember being at odds and thinking of Bailie’s family and what they must be going through. but also the great relief that I would be able to go on to take care of my two daughters. I’m just so incredibly grateful every day to be here because of her and now being in perfect health because of her.”

In the fall, Guzik met Aeling and the rest of Bailie’s family. She knew immediately she wanted to reach out to her family, though they are not allowed to connect for a year.

Guzik wanted to be there for Aeling Tuesday as he shared his message on the importance of organ donation even though she had just lost her mother.

“It’s truly like having a second family,” she said. “I’m so glad to be here. It’s an honor.”

Aeling agreed that Guzik is now a member of the family.

“Lynn gave my family a reason to smile in the heartbreak every time we think about Bailie,” Aeling said.

Before Aeling spoke about his family’s experience, Wise Health System’s Director of Performance Excellence Matt Runnels explained the impact on not only the recipient’s lives, but also others from organ donation. He added that one tissue donor can impact 75 lives.

He also pointed out the need for more donors.

“Nationally there are over 11 million registered donors,” Runnels said. “There are more than 113,000 on the waiting list for transplants. Eighty percent of those are awaiting kidneys. Twelve percent are awaiting livers.”

While thinking of his sister, Aeling said giving life through organ donation is the most precious gift one could offer.

“The most precious gift we carry in our body is our organs,” Aeling said. “It’s more precious than anything else on this earth because you can give someone else life. There are no materials on this earth worth more than someone’s life. You are allowing someone else to continue being a wife, mother or a husband.

“To be able to leave something behind that is going to save so many lives gives life more meaning.”

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