An Edmond teen killed in a tragic accident will be remembered on a float promoting organ and tissue donation during the 122nd Rose Parade on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif.
Nick Van Stavern is among 60 organ, eye and tissue donors nationwide who will be remembered with memorial “floragraph” portraits on the Donate Life float.
He was a few weeks shy of his 14th birthday when he died tragically in a four-wheeler accident on his grandparents’ farm last Memorial Day.
His parents consented to his becoming a tissue donor.
Nick’s grandfather, Phil Van Stavern, had required a kidney transplant at 38, donated by his older brother, Neil. Now 22 years later, Phil Van Stavern is the interim chief operating officer of LifeShare Transplant Donor Services of Oklahoma, the state’s nonprofit organization federally designated to recover organs for transplantation.
Donate Life is a nonprofit alliance of local affiliates and national organizations dedicated to promoting organ, eye and tissue donation. The float’s national campaign is coordinated by OneLegacy, a nonprofit agency serving the greater Los Angeles area.
Nick’s family will travel to southern California for the parade, and his grandfather will ride on the float to honor Nick and his brother.
“Nick had known about my situation since he was a kid,” Van Stavern said. “He was looking forward to the day when, like most kids, he would be able to drive. He was going to designate on his license that he was a donor. … It was a hard time for all of us, but it was not a hard question to answer when they asked us about donation.”
Nearly 1.8 million Oklahomans are registered donors, but demand for organs far outweighs the supply because medical prerequisites require donors to have died a brain death while on a respirator. The national waiting list for organ recipients has ballooned from 19,000 in 1991 to 110,000, Van Stavern said.
“That really narrows the field. Out of the many hospital deaths each year in Oklahoma, there are just a fraction that have a potential for organ donation,” he said.
For people like Nick, who could not donate his organs, tissue donation was an alternative. Heart valves, skin, bone, connective tissue and corneas can be recovered from a tissue donor, Van Stavern said, noting that being an organ donor provides comfort to grieving family members.
“It’s almost universal. We hear back (from family members) at some point who say what a wonderful thing it was they were able to do for their loved ones,” he said.
Nick was a creative young man who loved to write, sing, act and tell stories. He was a young Christian of very strong faith, his grandfather said.
“He was such a mess. He just had us laughing the whole time,” Van Stavern said.