Brittney’s legacy lives on in organ donation

Kidney transplant recipient Natalie Mirage, 12, holds a photo of her hero Brittney “Bruiser” Ford. (Submitted photo/Mirage family)

Kidney transplant recipient Natalie Mirage, 12, holds a photo of her hero Brittney “Bruiser” Ford. (Submitted photo/Mirage family)

BOWERS BEACH — Brittney “Bruiser” Ford’s death early last December was indeed tragic.

Her passing, however, saved five lives and invigorated dozens more.

She’d be happy about that.

The late 16-year-old Bowers Beach girl told her mother “I want to be a firefighter. I want to save lives” two weeks before she died from injuries suffered in a Dec. 3, 2014, vehicle accident near her home.

Today, her mother Laurie will see living proof that Brittney achieved her goal.

Natalie Mirage, 12, of Oxford, Pennsylvania, who received one of the late Brittney’s donated kidneys as a transplant recipient, will attend part of the “Camp Bruiser” youth camp created in the late Bowers Junior Firefighter’s honor.

Young Natalie knows just what she’ll do upon arriving at the Bowers Volunteer Fire Company.

“I told my mom that I’m going to give her mom a great big hug,” Natalie said earlier this week.

Chances are, according to the people who loved her, Brittney will be overjoyed, as well.

“I know she’s up in heaven watching me,” Natalie said. “She gave me new life.”

And the seventh-grader has continued to appreciate Brittney’s contribution each and every day. She swims on a competitive team and dreams of one day becoming a dolphin trainer.

The girl who underwent a high risk surgery and faced possibly lethal organ rejection several months ago now requires a monthly checkup at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She is progressing as well as could be hoped.

“It’s not really that tough now,” Natalie said. “I still take pills but eat a lot more than I used to and have a lot more

THE GIFT OF LIFE To learn more about the organ donation, visit www.donatelife-de.org/ or www.organdonor.gov. In Delaware people can register through the Department of Motor Vehicles, at ww.dmv.org/de-delaware/organ-donor.php donating. Or call (800) 366-6771.

THE GIFT OF LIFE
To learn more about the organ donation, visit www.donatelife-de.org/ or www.organdonor.gov. In Delaware people can register through the Department of Motor Vehicles, at ww.dmv.org/de-delaware/organ-donor.php donating. Or call (800) 366-6771.

energy.”

Yes, Brittney was a lifesaver.

“She’s my hero,” Natalie said.

Facing the significant possibility of death, four other patients received an organ from Brittney — another kidney transplant, a lung transplant and the donation of a liver that was halved for two recipients.

All a gift of life, courtesy of Brittney.

Also, Brittney’s corneas were implanted in two out-of-state males, and Laura said she received a letter noting that they had regained their sight.

The teenage hero’s thoracic aorta has benefited 50 people in the midst of life-enhancing dialysis, her mother said.

Laurie, an EMT for Memorial Volunteer Fire Company out of Slaughter Beach Station 89, couldn’t be prouder of her daughter and recognizes her significant contribution to lifesaving.

“I can only hope to save as many lives as Brittney has,” Laurie said. “She’s really set the bar high for me.”

Clearly, Brittney is missed in a special way.

“You have this hole in your heart that doesn’t go away,” her mother said. “You learn to deal with it.

“For me, I’ve lost quite a few family members and buried my sister a month later.

“You feel extreme sadness, but with Brittney there was also a tremendous amount of happiness she gave me.

“Out of the tragedy of losing Brittney, so many people can live, and two can see.”

Decision to donate

From the hospital, once Brittney’s death became inevitable, her family decided to donate her organs, and Laurie has no regrets.

“We looked at it as Brittney was going to die regardless of what could be done for her at some point,” Laurie said.

“The only thing we could do is take from the situation a miracle that all her organs were able to be donated.”

Kidney recipient Natalie had been on kidney dialysis since January 2012. Her Goodpasture Pasture’s Syndrome was rare for anyone, especially for a child. Her mother Pat described it as a “middle-age smoking man’s disease.”

Natalie was afflicted in late 2011, and near death during an emergency situation when her kidneys began shutting down while the family was living in Tennessee.

Rushed to the hospital and then air-evacuated to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, she received nine blood transfusions in what her mother described as “life-saving measures.”

The large amount of transfusions made Natalie a tough match for a transplant due to the mixed blood infused into her system. She could only receive an O-type kidney of a donor who does not have the transfused blood’s antigens, making only 3 percent of the population eligible to provide a transplant.

Eventually, the Mirage family moved to Pennsylvania to be in close proximity to the children’s hospital in Philadelphia.

Natalie had home dialysis for just shy of three years before receiving an overnight call from the hospital regarding a possible match — with Brittney — on Dec. 7.

“We went in immediately and didn’t even pack a bag,” her mother said. “It was all a blur.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment