Ohio has struggled with the opiate crisis for years. Now, other than the grim stories of lives ruined and families destroyed by people’s drug addiction comes a strange story of “redemption”: a record-number of organ donations are coming from victims of overdose deaths.
Andrew Mullins from Lifeline of Ohio shares: “In 2017, 25 percent of our total organ donors were due to a drug overdose. Such data pushed the state to a record number of organ donations in 2017- a 33 percent increase from the year before that.
Mullins said that’s where the story of “redemption” comes in. He says: “There’s something good that’s able to come out of something so terrible.”
Beth Vermillion’s son, Tony Shires, suffered a football injury in middle school. The mother gave his son his first pill when he was 13 to treat the injury. Unfortunately, it had a bad effect on him that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
Vermillion says: “Once that pill entered his body, the receptor had opened up. And the desire of that high became his life.” Shires would find himself in rehab for repeated stints and not even marriage and fatherhood could change him later on.
Vermillion described his son as “out of control”, such a pity she says since his son was basically “good.” Their worst nightmare came in October when he died of an overdose. When Shires died, his family was presented with the opportunity to save someone else through organ donation. The mother says the fact that Shires’ organs qualified in spite of being an addict is already a “small miracle.”
Vermillion shares that when his son was still alive, they suffered as a family with the shame, stigma, and misunderstanding of Shires’ condition. But now, everything has changed.
The proud mother now says: “For him to save someone else’s life, even in death, that was a no-brainer for us. Because that’s who he was.”
Shires’ wife, Amanda, shares the pride. She says of her departed husband: “He’s our hero.He always has been. And still is.”
In the end, Tony Shires was a registered organ donor who saved three lives. It is such a huge thing considering that in Ohio alone, 2,900 people are waiting for a life-saving transplant.