Organ donor, 11, provides inspiration to sign up during holidays

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INDIANAPOLIS — As many of us prepare to exchange gifts this holiday season, a gift of a much different kind is desperately needed.

More than 1,500 Hoosiers are waiting for life-saving organ transplants right now.

On Thursday, donor families and recipients gathered together at IU Health University Hospital because of an unlikely source: the annual Tournament of Roses Parade.

In a hospital room, Jerry Sexton and Will Worthington presented a rose to patient Pauline, who is waiting on a small intestine transplant.

Sexton waited four years for a liver that saved his life in 2006.

“(Finally) got a call and there it was,” Sexton said.

Worthington’s 11-year-old old son Noah died in a tragic car accident two years ago in Terre Haute.

“One minute you’re saying goodbye to him to go to a baseball game and the next minute you’re driving to a car accident,” Worthington said.

Noah will serve as an inspiration at the parade. A portrait of his face will adorn the “Donate Life” float, representing organ donors in Indiana.

It almost didn’t happen that way, though.

“Initially we said no, we don’t want to be organ donors. … It’s kind of hard, the shock of losing your child,” Worthington said.

They changed their minds and Noah saved four lives.

Worthington and Sexton handed out roses to patients like four-year-old Kaleb Switzer, who is waiting on a heart. Those patients got to write messages that will be added to the float as well.

They hope you’ll take the holidays to consider organ donation and talk to your family about it.

“I never thought about it. I never thought that I’d have to say I want my son to be an organ donor,” Worthington said.

For more information on organ donation, go to donatelifeindiana.org.