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Donating organs, giving life

Boyer family has inspirational story of how baby girl was saved
by: vern uyetake

Because of organ donation, Laura Boyer's baby daughter received the gift of life.

Now the Lake Oswego woman is working for others to receive that same gift through Donate Life Northwest - especially because April is Donate Life Month.

Laura Boyer is so eager to share her story that she has just completed her training as a speaker for Donate Life Northwest.

'I want to make more people aware of Donate Life, and I want to dispel myths about organ donation,' Boyer said. 'When I was growing up, I was actually told that doctors would let their patients die so they could get the organs.

'Donate Life gets people to think about the future and what can happen. There is so much people can learn about organ donation.'

Boyer's days of ignorance about organ donation were already way behind her when she and her husband, Brian, had their fourth child, Sophia, in 2006. But their joy turned to shock when doctors diagnosed that their little girl had an extremely rare genetic disorder - Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency order - affecting her liver and eventually her lungs.

Sophia would need a liver transplant before her first birthday. Luckily for the Boyers, a liver was found. A family donated the liver of their little girl who had died in an automobile accident.

'Donating an organ is one of the most selfless acts that you can do,' said Boyer. 'Sophia got her transplant on Christmas of 2006.'

Little Sophia proved to be a great patient.

'What's great is that children are pretty resilient,' Boyer said. 'Her recovery time was astounding. She had her transplant, two surgeries, and then she was out of the hospital in two weeks. Now she's a healthy kindergartener and one of the tallest kids in her class.'

That was one happy ending, but now the Boyers need another. Sophia's 7-year-old sister, Tatum, exhibits a severe form of the disease and she may one day need a transplant like Sophia.

'Tatum stays sicker longer when she catches colds,' Boyer said. 'She has mild asthma. We hope she doesn't need a transplant, but we worry about the possibility of her getting lung disease.'

While caring for their daughter, the Boyers are also caring about other children. At the time of Sophia's operation, the couple heard about a little girl in Seattle desperately in need of a liver. Brian Boyer immediately went there to see if he was a right match. Fortunately, another donor was found in the nick of time.

Now, the best thing Laura Boyer can do is share her experience.

'We tell our own story as an inspirational story,' she said. "I've seen a lot of babies die, sometimes waiting for an organ or sometimes they got too sick too quickly. I feel really lucky. Sophia getting that organ means the world to us.'

Donate Life Northwest's statistics show that 765 Oregon people are now waiting for a life-saving organ. For more information, go to donatelifenw.org