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For organ donor’s sister, tragedy and healing

Sometimes, while managing hurried and busy schedules, we take life for granted: we assume we have tomorrow to finish today’s tasks, and we assume the same for our families. We often forget how precious life is.

University Store Merchandise Specialist Deniz Erman knows life’s transience firsthand: she lost her brother Kent to a brain aneurysm less than a week after he passed a physical. His death shocked Deniz and her two brothers, who assumed Kent’s lunch with friends would be uneventful.

“He collapsed walking to his car,” Deniz recalls. “He wouldn’t respond to paramedics, so they took him to St. Joseph’s hospital. I was the first person they called.”

Deniz rushed to the hospital and stayed until 3 a.m. Kent’s brain was bleeding, and he was put on life support. After numerous tests he was pronounced brain dead.

“I knew my brother wouldn’t want to be on life support, so after a lot of thought my family and I decided to take him off,” Deniz says. “The doctors showed and explained the tests they’d done, and they couldn’t do anything else.”

The decision was especially hard because Kent and Deniz shared a close relationship.

“Kent was who I turned to for advice,” Deniz remembers. “I always—always—felt better about whatever was bothering me when we talked. He knew how to push my buttons and get under my skin like no one else, but at the end of the day he was always there for me.”

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From left to right: Deniz, her father, her brother Kent, and her mother

Immediately following Kent’s death, Deniz found solace through another source: the Living Legacy Foundation (LLF). Deniz learned after her brother’s passing that he was an organ donor—which is why LLF members introduced themselves to Deniz and her family. Two days passed as the Ermans waited for Kent’s organs to be donated, and the LLF lent support every step of the way.

“The Living Legacy foundation was a godsend for me and my family,” Deniz says. “Even after we left the hospital they’d call to check up on us. They held counseling sessions and aftercare workshops for us. They made Kent’s death much easier to deal with; the counselors were like angels walking us through the process.”

The LLF provides support for families of all organ donors and helps them communicate with donees. For many families, knowing that parts of their deceased loved ones live on through others—and often provide life for others—is comforting. Though Deniz hasn’t communicated with her brother’s donee through LLF, she smiles as she tells me that her brother’s corneas were donated and now enable someone else to see again.

Deniz isn’t just grateful that her brother continues to help others after passing. She’s resolved to help people the same way that she was helped.

“I asked the Living Legacy Foundation if I could volunteer after they helped me cope with Kent’s death,” she says. “I wanted to raise money for them—anything I could do to help. They didn’t want me to raise money; instead, they wanted me to raise awareness and spread knowledge about organ donation. That, and to support their annual 5k walk/run.”

The LLF 5k, held this year on Saturday, October 1 at Camden Yards, is the only time the organization asks for donations. All donations go toward supporting people family members like Deniz who need help navigating the loss of loved ones.

“Not only is the 5k for a good cause, but its atmosphere is wonderful,” Deniz beams. “It’s like a big hug. I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

Deniz created a Towson University team for this year’s LLF 5k as a TUSC staff development project in hopes that TU faculty, staff and students will participate. Several TU Tigers have benefited from organ donations, including Theatre professor Jay Herzog, who received a new liver.

“My brother would be happy I’m doing this,” Deniz smiles. “He loved helping people, and he’d be happy I’m doing the same.”

 

Interested in helping organ donors and their families? Sign up for the 5k. The Living Legacy Foundation’s goal is 3,800 total participants—one for each person waiting on Maryland’s organ waitlist.

Written by Tyler New

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