MOBILE Ala. (WKRG) — Just months after their teenage daughter’s unexpected death, a family in Mobile is sharing the painful story of what happened in hopes of saving others’ lives. Their daughter only lived nineteen years on this earth, but her legacy will live on for years to come, because of a decision she made when she was sixteen.
Katherine Blieler Lersch, “Kat,” passed away from a massive brain hemorrhage last May. This is extremely rare. She had just returned home from her freshman year at Auburn University the weekend before. She enjoyed a great weekend celebrating being home with her family. She looked forward to spending time with her twin sister, Chandler, over the summer. Chandler and Kat were mirror images of each other.
Early the next week, she laid on the couch, complaining of a headache and nausea. Minutes later, she was unconscious.
“I yelled for Matt, and Matt called 911,” Mom, Heather Lersch said. She adds that they knew Kat was gone before paramedics even arrived.
After days of tests, Kat was declared brain dead, and her parents had to make the decision of whether to donate her organs. They didn’t hesitate because Kat had chosen to be an organ donor on her driver’s license, just three years earlier. The red heart on her license indicates she is an organ donor.
“We sat there in the hospital, and we decided we were going to find the joy in losing her and not the tragedy of losing her,” Matt and Heather Lersch said.
In her death, Kat was able to donate all of her organs. They were placed in at least eight people waiting on a transplant list. Her tissues and eyes were also donated.
The Lersch family feels strongly about sharing Kat’s story so that others may be given the gift of life.
“The most beautiful thing we gave her in her death. Her legacy of what she has done for other people, it’s amazing. And, everybody can do that. Doctors are going to do everything they can do save your loved one’s life, but when that opportunity is gone, make the decision so that others can live,” Heather said.
The Lersch’s say Kat was a very giving person when she was alive. She even joined the service sorority at Auburn to make a difference in her community. Perhaps the greatest gift, though, was the decision she made to help others when she was gone.
The Lersch’s have met one recipient of Kat’s organs. His name is John, and he lives in Milton, Florida. News 5 plans to do a future story about the emotional meeting between the two families.
Maria Copeland with Legacy of Hope, formerly the Alabama Organ Center, says one organ donor can save up to eight lives, and positively impact the lives of 75 people. Just in Alabama, there are nearly 1,500 people waiting for an organ.
To learn more about organ donation, click here.