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Butler mom honored at AHN Wexford and Donate Life event

Laurie Grady, whose son Jacob Grady died in 2020 and donated his organs, speaks during a Rose Garden ceremony at AHN Wexford Hospital to mark the conclusion of the hospital’s Donate Life Month campaign on Monday, April 29. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

PINE TWP, Allegheny County — Laurie Grady, of Butler, remembers everything about the day her life changed forever on Dec. 26, 2020.

It was a crisp 18 degrees outside and the sky was a “beautiful bright blue,” she recalled. Family and friends gathered to enjoy the winter wonderland by partaking in a yearly tradition of snowboarding, snowmobiling and playing in the snow at their favorite sledding spot down the road.

“We always have a bonfire,” Grady said. “We bring hot chocolate and other snacks.”

She fondly remembers sending a friendly reminder to her 21-year-old son Jacob.

“Don’t forget the hot dogs,” the message read.

At the time, Laurie Grady did not realize that it would be the last text she would send her son.

“It was after 3 p.m. and the unthinkable happens,” she said. “There’s a very loud sound and an out of control snowmobile going past the bonfire site. Seconds later, I hear a loud crash and my oldest son has just been in a horrific accident.”

Several days later, on New Year’s Eve, Jacob Grady died from his injuries.

“Just days after the accident we heard the words that no parent ever wants to hear, that altered my life forever,” she said. “’I’m sorry but Jacob has passed due to his injuries.”

On Monday, April 29, Laurie Grady was invited by the Allegheny Hospital Network and Center for Organ Recovery and Education to share her story and the lives her son Jacob was able to save by being an organ donor.

The ceremony marked the conclusion of the hospital’s Donate Life Month campaign while honoring donors like Jacob. AHN’s Wexford Hospital also revealed their new rose garden to commemorate those willing to give the “gift of life,” through organ donations.

“The rose is a symbol of beauty and love,” said Susan Stuart, president and CEO of CORE. “And what better act of love and beauty than to give the gift of life.”

Laurie Grady was one of the featured speakers for the event, recalling the intimate details about the day her son died. As she left the podium, she gave the audience a message of both courage and hope.

“On New Year’s Day, 2022 Jacob became a hero,” she said with tears in her eyes. “He saved five lives through organ donations with his heart, both kidneys, liver and pancreas.”

Jacob’s donations also led to giving the gift of sight and his donated tissues helped with skin and tissue grafts, Laurie Grady said.

“All of this was made possible because Jacob chose to check the box at our local DMV,” she said.

And while the ceremony was a day for honoring and memorializing donors and their families, it was also an opportunity to emphasize the importance of being an organ donor.

According to CORE, there are more than 100,000 people who are awaiting an organ transplant in the United States.

In Pennsylvania, The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network estimates there are around 7,000 people in Pennsylvania awaiting a transplantation.

Kristen Ronosky, a stroke program manager at Allegheny Health Network who works closely with CORE, said it’s important for people to know the importance of being an organ donor.

“You have people waiting years for organs, for tissues, for cornea transplants.” Ronosky said. “I think it’s important for people to have this information.”

Pennsylvania residents can add an organ donor designation to their existing identifications by visiting the Pennsylvania DMV’s website and accessing the Organ and Tissue Donation page.

Laurie Grady, whose son Jacob Grady died in 2020 and donated his organs, speaks during a Rose Garden ceremony at AHN Wexford Hospital to mark the conclusion of the hospital’s Donate Life Month campaign on Monday, April 29. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Laurie Grady and son Johnathan Grady remember Jacob Grady, who died in 2020 and donated his organs, after placing a flowers in the AHN Wexford Hospital's new rose garden following a ceremony to mark the conclusion of the hospital’s Donate Life Month campaign on Monday, April 29. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Johnathan Grady, brother of Jacob Grady who died in 2020 and donated his organs, places flowers in the new rose garden at AHN Wexford Hospital after a ceremony to mark the conclusion of the hospital’s Donate Life Month campaign on Monday, April 29. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
AHN Wexford Hospital held a Rose Garden ceremony to mark the conclusion of the hospital’s Donate Life Month campaign on Monday, April 29. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

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