Family honors son’s death by encouraging organ donation on National Donor Day

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ZIONSVILLE, Ind. - A Zionsville man with a mechanical engineering degree from Vanderbilt University and a purchased engagement ring ready for his 5-year girlfriend thought he had it all going for himself.

“He was living life every day. Big! He was so thankful," Justin Langford's father, Bryan Langford, said. "He really developed that maturity as a young man, just thankful for all the gifts of life.”

But while on a work trip in Flagstaff, Arizona in May of 2014 for Allison Transmission, Justin's car flipped while he was driving down a mountain.

“Thankfully, his passenger escaped with a very small scratch and is doing very well, but Justin was trapped," Bryan said.

Justin made the decision to become an organ donor when he got his drivers license at 16, but still three days after the crash his parents had to make the decision to honor those wishes at the hospital in Arizona.

"So that’s why we always encourage people chose, register to be a donor, but talk about it so you’re family knows that's you’re wish," Langford said.

The Langfords honored his wish and now Justin's decision is helping more than 25 people across the country, some of which the Langfords have developed relationships with.

“I want you to know I never, ever forget it, I think about it every day," said Michael Valdez, who has Justin's kidney and pancreas.

Valdez and the Langfords met in person six months ago and the relationship has developed into something neither expected.

“It’s like I have two new parents," Valdez said.

Two months ago, Bryan met 4-year-old Alex Taylor, who has Justin's other kidney, for pizza in Montana. He gave Alex a goody bag of some Justin's favorite things. One item in the bag was a Indiana Pacers hat, which over Skype on Tuesday Alex said, "I still like it."

The Langfords are currently working with donor networks hoping to meet more people who have received donations from Justin. They say they view his organ recipients as extended family.

"You just know our son is helping someone else to live on through his gift of organ donation," said Bryan. "And that they now have a life and an opportunity every day to make a difference in others.”

The Langfords are planning the second annual Justin's Run for Hope. The event will be in May and raises money for two scholarships in his honor, one at Zionsville High School and the other at Vanderbilt.

If you or someone you know would like to become an organ donor, click here.