KNOXVILLE, TN (WVLT/Gray News) - When a 23-year-old who planned to donate a kidney to his ailing father died tragically in a car accident, his organ was still able to be transplanted, giving his father a new lease on life and a bittersweet way to remember his son.
Luther Davis followed the body of his 23-year-old son Nathan Davis into the operating room at University of Tennessee Medical Center early Tuesday morning.
The surgery would be life-saving because Luther Davis was in desperate need of a kidney, and his son was a perfect match. Unfortunately, it came only after an accident left the 23-year-old brain dead.
The transplant happened in the early morning hours after an honor walk celebrated the gift that Nathan Davis was able to provide for his father.
“After the first hour of operation, we were told that the kidney was already beginning to function. The next update we got was when the surgeon, Dr. Grandas, came to tell us that the surgery had been a success and that the kidney was doing its job. The procedure had been completed in very little over two hours, and Luther, with his little piece of Nathan, was in recovery. We knew that Luther was OK, by the grace of God, and we are so overwhelmingly grateful, in the face of this tragedy, for all of God’s mercies and miracles shining through the darkness," said Gabriela Davis, Luther’s daughter and Nathan’s sister.
Before the car accident last Tuesday that left Nathan Davis suffering from traumatic brain injuries, the 23-year-old had already decided to donate his kidney to his father. What he wasn’t able to do in life, he was able to give after his death.
“This is a really unique story. You don’t see this very often. It’s a great example of direct donation,” said Brent Hannah, Administrative Director for the Center for Transplant Services at the UT Medical Center. “He’s going to be able to give the gift of life to his father with his passing."
UT Medical Center said Nathan’s heart, liver and other kidney will also be donated.
“He is officially dead. But that body, that fearfully and wonderfully made body, is keeping those organs alive with a lot of assistance, but those organs are going to find new homes in the morning, and one of them is coming back home,” said Julia Davis, Nathan’s mother. “This ensures that Luther is going to have the opportunity to be with us a good while longer, and that’s beautiful. It’s a gift like no other.”
Luther Davis wants people to remember his son as a good person.
“Giving, loving, friendly to everyone. Never met a stranger. Didn’t judge them for their beliefs or whatever they may have that doesn’t necessarily agree with society. It didn’t matter. He loved all of them,” Luther Davis said.
The 23-year-old was always intrigued by the opportunity to sign an organ donor card, and his father suggests that everyone think about that opportunity, too.
“I’d really like to tell people: ‘If you’re not a donor, become a donor. If your children are starting to drive, let them know there’s an option to sign that card.’ Hopefully, they’ll never have to use it, but if something happens and they do, that way the family doesn’t have to make a decision; it’s already made. Then, other families keep their loved ones longer because of them," Luther Davis said.
Nathan Davis died Sunday morning, surrounded by family, at UT Medical Center.