UAB Medicine News

Back

Selfless act paves the way for more people to receive lifesaving organs

 

Alan Spriggs, program manager of Authorization Development with Legacy of Hope, Alabama’s organ procurement organization, approached the Parsons family with this rare opportunity to be a part of something that could change the course of many lives. Parsons’ accident occurred in Montgomery, Alabama; but O’Hara had already made her way to Huntsville to be with their children and family when Spriggs connected with her on the phone. Spriggs asked if she would be open to talking to Locke about a potential study.

“Alan said Dr. Locke would drive up to Huntsville to talk to me about it in person if that’s what I wanted,” O’Hara said. “We ended up putting her on speaker phone, and Ally and I were in the car together at the time. Dr. Locke explained the study and what it was about, and Ally and I both looked at each other, and we were both like, ‘yes, that’s definitely something we want to do.’”

O’Hara and Ally quickly connected with the rest of the family — sons Cole and David, and Parsons’ sisters and mother. They were all unanimous. This is what Parsons would have wanted.

“To say that they were remarkable is an understatement,” Locke said of Parsons’ family. “The notion of allowing us to enroll their loved one in something like this — really one of the first of its kind — was truly remarkable.”

It is not an easy request — to ask the family of someone who has been declared brain-dead to participate in something novel — but Spriggs said Parsons’ family believed he would have fully supported this decision.

“Ms. O’Hara was amazing through all of this,” Spriggs said. “She was such a strong person during an incredibly difficult time, especially for their kids. She said it would have meant a lot to Mr. Parsons to know that he was able to do something that was completely different and could potentially benefit so many.”

parsons.3

Keeping a legacy alive

Parsons began racing motorcycles in his youth and never shied away from adventure. Whether it was racing on the weekends, riding through the woods or making a cross-country trip to Colorado with his sons to ride motorcycles 13,000 feet up mountains a month before his death, he was never afraid to try something new.

“We had the time of our lives on that trip,” said David Parsons, who at age 22, also races motorcycles and now runs his dad’s business building custom closets for homeowners. “He had actually been to Colorado to ride dirt bikes many years ago, before I was born. He would always tell me stories about it, and I wanted to go. We finally did, and it was great. I didn’t realize how thankful I was for that trip until after he passed away. I’m just glad we got to take it. That was a trip he wanted to take us on his whole life, and I’m thankful for it.”

Parsons turned 57 on Sept. 22, 2021, a few days before his death. Ally says they all had a big family dinner to celebrate, and her dad was radiant, still beaming about the trip he shared with David and Cole.

“He was boasting about this trip,” she said. “He just had the greatest time, scaling and climbing mountains with his boys. I think it was the trip of his life, for sure.”  

O’Hara says she and Parsons made a pact years ago to always be there for each other as a family.

“When we divorced, we made a covenant with each other — that our kids came first, and we would respect each other,” O’Hara said. “We were very, very true to that covenant, especially in the last two to three years. We talked often about the kids, and sometimes we just talked. We had a trust.”

Ally recalls a conversation that Parsons had with the family at that birthday dinner a few days before his death. There was a specific place at the top of American Flag Mountain where he told them he wanted his ashes to be spread when he died.

Talking about it now, it seems surreal to the family that they would have that conversation and then be planning to follow through on Parsons’ desires such a short time later. But, true to their dad’s wishes, that is exactly what they have done.

Next fall, around the time of Parsons birthday, the family plans to go back with several of his friends and travel up almost 13,000 feet, where it feels as though you can reach out and touch the sky, and lay Jim Parsons to rest.

“Our dad was definitely one of a kind who lived life to his fullest,” Ally said. “Losing him was really hard, but knowing so much light could come from such a sad thing is really important to me. Him looking down on us now, I know he’s very proud that his death could potentially bring so much hope to others.”

The story — and legacy — of Jim Parsons will continue to carry on.

Forever.

Article provided by UAB News.