‘This was his last act of service,’ Mother donates son’s organs after tragic loss

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BURLINGTON, N.C. — It was July, 2011. Summer vacation. Lori Rowley and her family were out of state, tubing at a lake, having a wonderful time.

“Joshua would wear his life vest all day because tubing was his favorite thing in the world. It happened so fast. The boat came out of the blue,” Rowley told FOX 8 on a sunny day at Country Park in Greensboro. “The boat ran over my boys, 12-year-old Joshua and 19-year-old Matthew.”

Joshua was killed instantly. Matthew was in a coma for two days before he died. The driver of the other boat was charged in the crash.

Matthew was a firefighter and an EMT. Almost 6 months to the day before that terrible tragedy, Matthew and his mom had a long talk, after Matthew responded to a call about a car crash, in which a young man ended up on life support.

“We were in his bedroom and he told me, ‘Mom, okay, here’s the deal. If there’s ever a situation that I’m on life support and I can’t be me or run my bloodhounds or play my guitar, don’t keep me on machines, mom. I know you’ll want to keep any shred of me, but let me go.’” That wasn’t all. The young man in the car crash was an organ donor. He died from his injuries and Matthew told his mom that he, too, wanted to be an organ donor.

“Then, six months later, I had to make all these same decisions. Do I take him off life support, do I donate his organs? I didn’t even have to contemplate because I knew exactly what Matthew wanted. This was his last act of service and I know Matthew is up there in heaven beaming right now,” Rowley said.

Joshua’s organs weren’t able to be donated because of the nature of the accident.

By law, if an organ donor is 18-years-old or older, his or her wishes to be an organ donor are honored by the state. If younger than 18, even if the person is registered as a donor, parents have to give their consent. That’s why Rowley is encouraging other families to have that difficult conversation. “Matthew’s organs helped at least 6 other people that I know of. That gives me some peace and I know he would be just delighted about that.”


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