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Scappoose father of organ donor keynotes 'Lifesavers Breakfast'

Scott Nance: Allowing daughter to be posthumous donor was 'difficult,' but rewarding

Photo Credit: MARK MILLER - Scott Nance, a Scappoose resident whose daughter Carrie became an organ donor after a fatal car crash in 2004, speaks at the 'Lifesavers Breakfast,' an annual fundraiser put on by Donate Life Northwest at the Oregon Convention Center, on Wednesday, Nov. 12.A Scappoose man whose teenage daughter was an organ donor gave the keynote address at a fundraising breakfast for Donate Life Northwest in Portland on Wednesday, Nov. 12.

Scott Nance, whose daughter Carrie died in 2004 after a car crash, said that although it was difficult for him, he honored her wish to become a donor — and that the organs donated after her death saved the lives of four people.

Nance said he has been “a believer” in organ and tissue donation since his mother died and her corneas were donated, giving a young mother her sight. When Carrie was assigned a report in class on organ and tissue donation and asked him how he felt about it, he said, he reminded her of that.

“So Carrie did her report, and a few weeks later, she came into my office,” Nance recounted. “She was all proud. She got an A-plus. ... I’ll never forget as she was walking out my office door, she turned around and she said, ‘Granny was a hero. She didn’t die in vain. She got to give that girl the ability to see her babies, and I hope when I die, I can be a hero like my granny was.’ And I was like, ‘Wow.’ And it definitely left a very lasting impression.”

He continued, “Had no idea knowing that in less than a year, I’d be sitting in a hospital room, holding her hand, watching her die, and making that decision really with her, I guess — because as a parent, I had to sign the paperwork. I had to make that release.”

And, Nance admitted, as he sat by Carrie’s bedside in the hospital, he had a moment where he could not stand the thought of his daughter’s organs and tissue being recycled.

“At one point in the night ... I just, I lost it,” he said. “I can’t explain it. I just was sitting there holding her hand, and the thought of anything more was just too much. ... And I yelled, ‘I can’t do this. Stop. Stop everything. She’s not going to be a donor.’”

As hospital staff talked to him and calmed him down, Nance said, he thought he felt a hand scratching his back — the signal, he said, that Carrie would give him when she was riding with him on his motorcycle and didn’t like the way he was driving. He allowed the donation to go forward.

Leslie Brock, executive director of the nonprofit group Donate Life Northwest, which encourages people to become organ donors, said it is sometimes difficult for parents to accept the idea of a child serving as a posthumous donor.

“Being a donor truly is a precious opportunity to give the gift of life,” Brock said. “However, when faced with a tragic loss, especially when it is parents facing the loss of a child, the decision to donate can often be too much to face.”

She added, “Many of you here are brave donor parents like Scott, who found the strength to make that decision.”

After Nance spoke, several recipients of organ and tissue donations came to the podium to explain how the donations had affected them. Many said they are alive because of the transplants they received.

“Sometimes, our choices are little, like, you know, ‘Does that pair of boots go with this dress,’ or, ‘Am I going to wear that shirt.’ Sometimes, the choices and decisions that we make in life are big. Sometimes, the choices that we make are significant. And sometimes, they make a big difference,” said Nance.

Nance described his decision to allow Carrie to be a donor as “probably the most difficult choice I’ve ever had to make.”

At the time of her death, Carrie Nance was just over a week shy of her 17th birthday. She was a rising junior at St. Helens High School.

Nance is a U.S. Air Force veteran and IBM engineer who sits on Donate Life Northwest’s board of directors. He described himself as a “redneck,” joking at one point about being more casually dressed than many others at the “Lifesavers Breakfast,” which was held at the Oregon Convention Center.

The event was emceed by Sally Showman of KOIN 6 News, the Spotlight’s news partner, who recently interviewed Nance.

Wednesday’s breakfast marked Showman’s third time speaking at the annual event.