A young mother and Malone native who died in January and ultimately saved the lives of four others through organ donation was remembered Saturday as a loving parent and selfless caregiver at a memorial event at the University of Vermont Health Network — Alice Hyde Medical Center.
Family members of Meghan Smith, 29, of Saranac Lake, gathered at the base of Alice Hyde’s flag pole Saturday afternoon, where they reminisced about Meghan’s life, grieved over her loss, and celebrated her impact both on the lives of those she knew and loved, and four individuals she will never meet.
In the early morning hours of Jan. 14 Meghan, who was a diabetic, experienced a medical event that stopped her breathing and left her without a heartbeat. She was taken ambulance to University of Vermont Health Network — Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital (CVPH) in Plattsburgh. There, the health care team was successful in getting Meghan’s heart beating again, but after three days she was ultimately declared brain dead.
For Meghan’s family and especially her mother, Jodi Lynn Jeror, Meghan’s plight presented a heart-wrenching crossroads. In 2007 Meghan had lost her first child, Brady, to stillbirth. In the wake of that tragedy both Meghan and Jodi had decided to become organ donors. Now Meghan, a mother of three young children at home, was not expected to recover.
At about 8 p.m. on Jan. 18, more than 100 CVPH employees lined the hallways of the hospital, paying tribute to Meghan as she was wheeled into the operating room for the last time. It marked the first honor walk in CVPH history, and still touches Jodi’s heart when she thinks back to that day.
“That was the hardest walk, but it was the most touching — to have all those people come out and honor her. To have to make that decision to let her go was something that no parent should have to do,” said Jeror. “But she was always trying to help people, wherever and whenever she could. It was hard, but I’m never more proud than I am now that she did it.”
On Saturday Alice Hyde employees joined Jeror and the rest of Meghan’s family at a ceremony raising a “Donors Save Lives” flag from the Center for Donation & Transplant. The flag will fly above Alice Hyde Medical Center in Meghan’s honor before being given to Meghan’s family.
Jeror said her family is honoring Meghan’s legacy by doing something else as well — becoming organ donors themselves, and sharing the powerful impact being a donor can have on the lives of others.
“Because of this the big majority of my family, which is a large family, has signed donor cards,” she said.
According to Donate Life more than 100,000 people await lifesaving organ transplants, and 22 people die every day waiting for a life-saving organ donation. Last year more than 36,500 organ transplants from 17,500 donors saved lives, and more than 145.5 million people were registered organ, eye and tissue donors.
For Jeror, her daughter’s final gifts to four strangers represent the core of who Meghan was: someone who cared for and helped anyone and everyone.
“She did everything she could for everybody,” said Jeror. “I know she’s watching, and I’m proud; I’m very proud of her.”
She said the family has already received a letter from one of the four people saved by Meghan’s final act — a man who received both of Meghan’s lungs.
“I’m hoping down the road to be able to meet him,” said Jeror,” because I’d love to hear (Meghan’s) lungs again.”
To learn more about becoming an organ donor visit DonateLife.net; or to register as a donor visit RegisterMe.org.