A hurting Panama City Beach family finds healing by meeting the families saved after their sons death. In October of 2009 15-year-old Taylor Smith is riding a bicycle with a friend when he is hit and killed by a drunk driver. That same day three women are under going dialysis and are in and out of doctors offices. All of them suffering from organ failure.
The circumstances of this day would change their lives forever.
"We were all connected even before any of us even knew each other," said Shawn Smith, Taylor's father.
After his family made the decision to donate, five of Taylor Smith's organs were given to three women in the state of Florida.
"Yara received a kidney and a liver, " said Laura. "Jennifer received a kidney and a pancreas and Sally received his heart."
The Smith family and all recipients have since met in person. Getting to know each other and their families and giving them a glimmer of hope in a dark time.
"We couldn't have picked better recipients if we had to they are just so much like us and our family," said Laura.
"You know they have the same values," said Shawn. "The things that are important to us are also important to his recipients as well, and I'd imagine they always have been."
Today, more than 3700 patients listed at Florida transplant centers await life-saving organ transplants. In the United States that number is over 100,000.
Christina Clavijo is an organ procurement specialist with LifeQuest and serves in the Panama City area.
"Once we are able to find matches for every organ that is suitable for placement then we coordinate with all the different coordinators at whichever hospital has accepted the organ," said Clavijo. "And then we get their transplant surgeons to fly in."
For the Smith family the rest is history.
"Yara is one of the recipients. She is studying to be a nurse," said Laura. "Jennifer is another recipient and she writes an article for a local newspaper. She used to be a diabetic since she was fifteen. Now she is no longer a diabetic. Sally, who received Taylor's heart, has ten grandchildren. She actually has an eleventh on the way and she's going to get to see that new grand baby."
And it's through these women that Taylor's memory lives on.
"I remember we sent out a package to all the families," said Shawn. "One of the pictures we sent out was of him making a ginger bread house. He made a gingerbread house every year at Christmas."
Christmas of 2009 was the first Christmas Taylor did not get an opportunity to continue his tradition with his family. After a phone call from Sally, Taylor's heart recipient, a connection was made.
"I got on her Facebook page and there was a picture of her grand kids and her family building a gingerbread house at Christmas," said Shawn.
"They didn't know that was something that Taylor did, but they just started that new tradition that year," said Laura. "The year that he didn't get to make one they starting making one. We all are kind of connected somehow."