Heroes have the Heart
UPDATED STORY 10/14/16: This marks 1 year since Evan Kimball donated his organs and saved multiple lives.
The Kimballs continue to push for donors. If you are interested in registering head to the link at the bottom of this page.
"I just remember I was terrified"
In 2005, L.B. LaForce was diagnosed with a disease called Restrictive Cardiomyopothy.
His heart valves didn't work properly, they were stiff and couldn't relax to pump enough blood.
And, there's no known cure.
"After several dozen tests the doctors decided a transplant was looking like more of an option" L.B. says.
At 25 years old, L.B. needed a brand new heart.
"There's not enough donors out there to help people, and there's a lot of people out there waiting for life saving transplants" he says.
Added to the transplant list in September, he waited at home in Battle Creek for a heart to become available.
200 miles away in West Branch live the Kimballs, Ward and Lydia, their sons Evan and Gale.
Evan, a freshman at Aquinas College.
A baseball player and, like many 18 year olds, reaching for the stars.
"He made us proud all the time but I never thought I could be more proud of him" says Ward, Evan's father.
"When he came out of the secretary of state, I was with him, he came out and was like hey mom I checked the box" says Lydia, Evan's mother.
At the age of 16 Evan became a registered organ donor by checking a box on his driver's license application.
2 years later, on October 10th of 2015, while on his way back to school he was in a car accident.
He was rushed to a local hospital but 2 days later was declared brain dead.
"I told him I loved him" says Ward of saying goodbye.
"I said I love you Jimmy", he continues.
"His gifts were donated on October 14th, 2015" says Lydia.
Hours later, Evan's heart was on it's way to save a life.
My first meeting with Lydia was at our studio.
She hurt, anyone could tell, but she had a sort of determination in her eyes.
"One of our main questions was if we had someone could we make that connection and see if there was someone we could help" she said.
The Kimball's asked friends, family, neighbors if the knew anyone who needed an organ.
That's called direct donation, and it's rare.
Betsy Miner-Swartz, the Kimball's family friend and a representative with Gift of Life Michigan told me...
"Direct donation is something that happens 50 to 75 times a year in the country".
Evan direct donated to 4 people, plus one extra for a total of 5.
But the important number was 4.
"The Kimballs 4 direct donations tied a national record" says Betsy.
4 perfect matches, 4 direct donations, 4 lives saved.
A number that now has new meaning to them because...
"Evans baseball number was 4" says Lydia with a smile.
"We set a goal, his anniversary date of his gifts October 14th of 2016 at 4,444. And this mother won't rest, I'll set my new goal when we get there" she says.
The amount of people Lydia wants to sign up as donors in memory of her sons life saving gifts.
"I can curl up in a ball, and not live my life. Or I can help another mother save their child" says Lydia.
A month after our first sit-down I met Ward and Lydia in their hometown of West Branch.
"There's so many people that are hopeless, or are almost to the point of hopeless, almost to the point of death, that you can help" says Ward.
"Don't take your organs to heaven, heaven knows we need them here" says Lydia.
The first life Evan saved...L.B.
He has Evan's heart.
"I'd give him a big hug, and I couldn't say thank you enough for the gift that he's given me" says L.B.
He knows the gift he's been given.
It's hard to comprehend, a person you love leaving you.
And yet, on their way to live on in someone else.
And in January, at Bishop International Airport in Flint, L.B. brought Evan to meet his parents again.
There were tears, a lot of them.
But there we also smiles.
More of them.
To become an organ donor in Evan's name and help Lydia get to her 4,444 donor mark follow this link: CLICK HERE TO REGISTER AS A DONOR