If Keri Morrill had to describe her husband, Jeffrey, in one word, it would be generous. She said his giving heart is the reason she fell in love with him. It’s a big part of what kept the couple together for 10 years, and it was also the character trait they worked hardest to instill in all four of their children.
The 31-year-old father’s life was cut short almost three years ago, but his selfless spirit continues to impact others today through his donated organs.
“They say that time heals all wounds, but it doesn’t,” Keri Morrill said. “You just learn to deal with it. It doesn’t hurt any less, but I am able to talk about it now.”
Jeffrey was transported to UF Health Jacksonville on Aug. 19, 2014, after being in a hit-and-run while riding his motorcycle home from work. He had a traumatic brain injury that left him on life support.
“I knew he was an organ donor. We both are,” Morrill said. “We talked about it several times, and I know he wanted to do this.”
Five people received Jeffrey’s organs, 55 grafts of his tissue were used, and another person received his bone marrow. One of his kidney recipients even attends Keri’s church and thanked her personally for the second chance her husband provided him.
“A lot of people don’t get to meet their loved one’s organ recipients,” Morrill said. “It makes a big impact when you hear and learn about them.”
Jeffrey’s name is also on the Tree of Life, located in the East Expansion of the Clinical Center. This year, 21 more names will be added — 19 on leaves and two on butterflies — completing the mural. The first names of adult patients who donated organs are engraved on the leaves, and the names of the children who donated are engraved on the butterflies.
“Eighty organs were transplanted in 2016 because of these patients,” said Christopher Wilson, divisional director of Critical Care. “We honor the difficult decisions they and their loved ones made during the Tree of Life ceremony.”
The event will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 25 in the LRC Auditorium. The hourlong ceremony begins with the history and meaning of the mural. The national anthem is sung, and this year, the names of patients who donated organs in 2016 will be read by trauma nurses.
“We hold a moment of silence to honor all of their memories,” Wilson said. “The mother of a 17-year-old UF Health Jacksonville patient, whose organs were donated in 2007, will also share her story.”
Every day an estimated 22 people die in the United States waiting for an organ transplant. LifeQuest Organ Recovery Services is the federally designated organ procurement organization that serves a 36-county region of North Florida.
“Organ donation is often the only option for thousands of patients suffering from end-stage organ diseases,” said Kathleen Giery, director of donor program development for LifeQuest. “Through our partnership with hospitals like UF Health Jacksonville, we are able to provide lifesaving organs for transplantation to hundreds of patients each year.”
Keri still fights back tears when she thinks about Jeffrey, but knowing he was able to help at least six people brings her comfort.
“If everyone became an organ donor, there wouldn’t be such a need,” she said.
Every organ donor can save up to eight people and improve up to 50 lives, with tissue, bone and cornea donation. Register to become an organ donor by visiting DonateLifeFlorida.org.