Living on: Family remembers daughter whose organs saved four others
by Joshua Sharpe
May 19, 2013 12:00 AM | 2797 views | 4 4 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On Father’s Day three years ago, Kristi and Terry Howard lost their daughter, Ashley Howard, while on a family outing at Lake Lanier. Upon Ashley’s death, her organs where donated to four people: three in Georgia and one in Indiana. The Howards find hope in her organ donations.
On Father’s Day three years ago, Kristi and Terry Howard lost their daughter, Ashley Howard, while on a family outing at Lake Lanier. Upon Ashley’s death, her organs where donated to four people: three in Georgia and one in Indiana. The Howards find hope in her organ donations.
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Ashley Howard
Ashley Howard
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A letter from the 9-year-old Indiana girl who received Ashley’s heart.
A letter from the 9-year-old Indiana girl who received Ashley’s heart.
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It was Father’s Day three years ago when a Cherokee County husband and wife lost their teenage daughter in a boating accident on Lake Lanier, but for the family left behind and the people who received one of her organs, her story is far from over.

Ashley Howard was a Sequoyah High School student remembered by her parents, Kristi and Terry Howard, as a kind, smiling girl who loved riding horses and helping people.

She was 15 when she fell off a raft being pulled behind her family’s boat on Lake Lanier and was struck by another boat.

She was airlifted to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, but her parents said in moments following the accident, it didn’t seem that there was much hope to hold on to.

Ashley was declared brain dead four days later. However, her parents said her life didn’t exactly end there.

Now, the Howards find hope in the gifts given by their daughter.

Four of her organs were harvested and saved the lives of four people, three Georgia adults and a young girl in Indiana, her mother said.

Father’s Day

Kristi recalls the scene as chaotic, with screaming and panicked strangers calling for help and a telling look of grief on her husband’s face when he found their daughter in the water.

It was June 20, 2010.

Terry woke up that morning at the family’s home in the Hickory Flat area of Cherokee County to a home-cooked breakfast in bed, a gift from his youngest daughters — Ashley and Annie Howard, who was 10 at the time.

After breakfast, the family drove north to Dawson County to meet friends and enjoy the day on Lake Lanier.

They spent hours rushing through the water on their boat, with three girls — Ashley, Annie and Ashley’s friend, Megan, trailing behind on a raft for much of the time.

In still-frame from a video taken by Kristi just before the accident, the three girls can be seen slipping through the water, with smiles wide and the sun lighting their faces.

Moments later, the day changed.

Suddenly, a pontoon boat pulled up behind them, latching onto the Howard family boat’s wake, and Ashley and Annie both fell off the raft.

Annie fell out of the way of the boat and wasn’t harmed, Terry said.

But Ashley fell in front of the boat, and Terry said she was struck by the boat’s motor. He said the boat’s driver didn’t see her.

Terry jumped in the water and rushed to her.

“The water was crimson,” he said, and Ashley was unresponsive.

Kristi called 911.

She said it was during that frantic call trying to explain their isolated location to the operator that she realized how serious Ashley’s injuries might be.

“Terry looked up at me, and I just knew it was bad,” Kristi said.” And I said ‘We need a helicopter.’”

An easy choice

Ashley arrived at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta later that afternoon.

Kristi said Ashley was put on life support and was never responsive again.

“After being there the third day, they started the brain death test,” she said, “and she was declared brain dead.”

It was during this test, Kristi said, that she and her husband were approached by a doctor who asked if they were willing to donate their daughter’s organs.

“We both right away looked at each other and we said ‘Yes,’” she said.

Kristi said the decision was easy.

Eight months earlier, Ashley registered to be an organ donor when she got her learner’s permit.

“Ashley knew about organ donation because her grandfather (Terry’s father) had received a liver,” she said. “We have a picture of her holding her (permit) and she was all proud.”

A team with Lifelink of Georgia — an organization Kristi and Terry now volunteer with — came in and helped begin the process of harvesting Ashley’s organs.

Comments
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Mary Saubert
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May 23, 2013
Contact the OPO (Organ Procurement Organization) in your state or call the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization at 888-275-4676 and they will help you get a letter to the Indiana recipient.
Ellen DuVernay
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May 22, 2013
Sadly I can relate 110% with your story. Our similarities are unbelievable. My 26 year old daughter fell off the back of our golf cart 9-20-11. She was declared brain dead 9-22-11. She was also an Organ Donor. She not only saved 4 patients with her gift, she has made it possible for 4 families to continue to celebrate life. Brittany's death has forever changed my life . I met the lady who received both of Brittany's lungs in January 2013. I have been told the 3 other patients are all doing well. This bit of information and the knowledge that my baby will continue to live on in others brings me great peace. As you know there are no words that anyone can say to make the heartache go away. When people tell me they are sorry for our loss, my response to them is that I feel blessed that God gave me Brittany for 26 of the most amazing years of my life. I know she will be the first Angel to greet me when I go home to Heaven. I miss her more and more with every passing day. I pray for acceptance of God's life plan. I am sure our Angels are together and watching over us from above. My husband, daughter Kortney, granddaughter Mackenzie (Brittanys baby) and myself along with many others know too well what your heart is feeling. This emotional roller coaster is not a very fun ride. Mackenzie and I were in the golf cart when my Brittany fell, so I know that horrible feeling of guilt. I will keep all of you in my daily prayers....
Bittersweet 2
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May 19, 2013
I am crying on the couch reading this story. What a tragic accident and yet your daughter lives on in the lives of others. Boaters need to be careful and NOT follow other boats. I am sorry for your loss of that precious girl!
annie howard
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May 22, 2013
thank you so much Bittersweet 2 that was my sister
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