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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

9-year-old Girl's Death Is Seven People's "Miracle"

Kristen Johnson's picture


"She had love in her heart and never met a stranger," Robert Starnes says of his daughter Jessie.

But the life of the little girl, known to give away her own school supplies to needy classmates, would be cut suddenly short.

"I was doing something in the kitchen - and she hollered out for me and she fell and she was having a seizure. I called 911 and they started an ambulance but before they got there I started CPR," Jessie's mom Lisa Roussea recalls.

Jessie suffered a brain aneurysm.

There was nothing doctor's could do.

"We decided early on that we wanted to donate her organs," Starnes said.

"If she was in the position to choose, she would have chosen to give her organs," Lisa added.

Seven people benefited from Jessie's donations.

Her lungs, kidneys, corneas and heart were all able to be used.

"My hope is to one day listen to Jessie's heart in this 13 year old girl," Starnes said.

"The letter I got from the kidney recipient - she talked about her Easter miracle and that's what the Easter holiday symbolizes and she had new life and that she would take very good care and her family was thankful and how now she can play with her grandchildren without getting tired," Rousseau noted.

According to Tennessee Donor Services - one person can help more than 50 people through organ or tissue donations.

"When the decision to save another life is made you may not feel it that day you will know without question their life story carries on there is not greater gift," Jonathan Malloch with Tennessee Donor Services told News 12.

More than a hundred thousand people are on the National Transplant Waiting List.

The need for life-saving organs is so great it's estimated that 18 people die every day waiting.

"I think that in this community alone it's something we don't talk about at the dinner table, but sharing with your family your wishes is the most important thing," Malloch added.

A billboard is set to go up on Amnicola Highway that shares Jessie's story.

It's her parents hope that someone else will see it and share the gift of life.

"We can't control life but we can control the gifts of life," Starnes said.

"I am very glad that her legacy is living on and I feel like on days that I don't want to go on, if she could come back here one day and see me..what would she want to see me doing and I think she would want to see me doing this," Rousseau added.

To learn more about organ donation, click here.