What is an organ donor? Donation from teen Evan Porter saves 25 lives, mom creates Loretto Hospital nonprofit in Austin, Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) — Evan Porter was an exuberant, enthusiastic musician in his second year of college when his mother Catherine said the unthinkable happened.

“It was so devastating that I couldn’t believe he was gone,” Catherine Porter said.

Evan Porter unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack at only 19 years old.

“He wrote a poem about his life and he said when this life is over, he wanted to let it shine in someone else,” Porter said.

SEE ALSO | Mom hears late son’s heartbeat in 14-year-old donor recipient’s chest for 1st time

That poem inspired Catherine to have Evan give a final gift of organs and tissue to help others in need live.

“He saved 25 lives when he passed. I gave his tissue to the burn unit, I gave his bone marrow to the cancer society,” she said.

Now, Porter is honoring her son at a flag raising ceremony with the non-profit Gift of Hope at Loretto Hospital.

“By him living in someone else, I still feel that he’s alive,” Porter said.

August is Minority Organ Donor Awareness Month. Porter and Gift of Hope are asking people to consider becoming an organ donor because the need is great and disproportionately impacts minorities.

“Of the 100,000 people on the organ transplant list, about 60-70% are people of color, even though they only make up 13%, 14% of the United States,” said Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Network CEO Dr. Harry Wilkins.

Porter said because of those lives her son saved, the burden she bears is lighter.

“It takes away the mourning. It takes away the sorrow. When you leave something back, it makes you feel that the person’s still alive. And then when the wind blows, you can feel their spirit, or when the sun shines,” she said.

And for organ recipients like Tonisha Daniel, who received a new liver at the age of 14, gifts like Evan’s mean everything.

“Ultimately, her son is a hero,” Daniel said.

Learn more about becoming an organ donor in Illinois here.

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