Organ donation gives life to a Pinellas firefighter

Losing a child is something no parent wants to face, but it's a reality Natalie Carter lives with daily. 

Seven years ago, Natalie's 10-year-old son Austin, was riding with his sister in a go-cart. "He got dirt in his eyes, let go of the wheel to rub his eyes, and the go cart went off course."

The cart tipped to the side and Austin's head impacted a large, metal pipe.

On September 29, 2008, Natalie got the news her son wasn't going to wake up, "we could end the story and walk away, or we could take an hour or two and change history for somebody else."

Natalie and her family made a decision that would impact the lives of eight people they didn't know. "We as a family decided that Austin would be an organ donor, and his love of life couldn't end there. It would want to be something that Austin would want to share."

One of those people was Pinellas firefighter, Lori Lyons. She spent her career helping save lives but she had an inherited condition that was causing her kidney’s to fail. She was facing dialysis but a new kidney was her only hope for a fix. 

For nearly two-years, Lori waited for a match. Then while on duty, she got the call at the fire station.

"The phone rang in the middle of the night. All the guys were crying, all of them were jumping for joy, all excited. It was pretty exciting that I heard I was getting a transplant, that I was getting a second chance," Lori smiles. 

That second chance allowed Lori to retire in Hawaii and live a life free of dialysis.

"There’s not a day that goes by that I don't think about Austin, Natalie and Carter. I'm just so happy I have them in my life, and it's because of them they saved me," Lori explained. 

Natalie says getting to know Lori, gives her peace, "for me, it's healing I know that my little boy isn't here, but I got to hug him when I hugged Lori. I got to see the joy in her eyes, and that smile... as much as it was her smile, he was behind it."

Natalie now volunteers her time with LifeLink, helping raise awareness for organ donation.