August 4, 2020
Organ, Tissue, and Corneal Donation
On the early morning of April 7, 2002, Justin McWilliams was killed in a motor vehicle/pedestrian accident. At the tender age of twenty (20), he was a proud organ donor . Unfortunately, due to the seriousness of his internal injuries, his family was unable to donate any of his major organs. However, without hesitation, The McWilliams Family agreed to donate his corneas as well as his bone, skin and tissue, in an effort to help those in need. This is what Justin would want and his family knew it.
About 4-months after Justin’s death, the McWilliams family received certificates from the Eye Bank indicating that Justin provided sight to two individuals. Their tragedy became a miracle to two others and their families! The McWilliams Family also received a notice that Justin’s donation of bone, skin and tissue would help up to sixty-five people. Being there for others is what Justin was all about. What a beautiful opportunity to keep his spirit ongoing.
Organ donation is not an easy subject to discuss. The thought of losing a loved one is often incomprehensible. It is unsafe, unfamiliar and very uncomfortable territory. However, knowing that Justin was able to offer the miracle of sight to others, in addition to helping burn victims, cancer victims and others through donation, ultimately gave his Family a sense of comfort at the most tragic time of their lives.
In the months and years to follow, Jamie McWilliams often wondered who had received the miracle of sight through Justin’s corneal donation. In time The McWilliams Family would meet Daphne Pfaff (in the photo on this page with Jamie McWilliams), who at the age of 67 was a recipient of Justin’s cornea…a time that she refers to as her “Easter Miracle.” Daphne had a degenerative condition that had greatly affected her vision over the years. By the time she received her corneal transplant, she was no longer the independent and vibrant woman she had been. Over the years, Daphne and her husband David have maintained close contact with the McWilliams Family, even attending the Official Signing of the Justin McWilliams Act in June 2006 in Tallahassee, FL.
Justin was a giving person, with a heart of gold. He loved people…and they loved him. While Justin’s loss left many with a void in their lives, those that knew him and loved him have always taken solace in the fact that others would have the opportunity to look at and embrace life as he did.
Please visit www.organdonor.gov for more information on how you can make the difference and be an advocate for organ, tissue and corneal donation.