Seeing past grief, mom gives others a chance at sight
Every year during National Eye Donor Month in March, Beth Ballard of Milford thinks of the two men who are able to see again thanks to the precious gift they received from her son, Brian Wynne.
“Brian was only 15 years old when he died in 1998 from a genetic disease called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy,” said Ballard. “He was a very happy, positive, loving and most importantly, extremely giving young man, so I knew he would want to help others through organ donation.”
Although Brian’s organs shut down due to the muscle degeneration caused by his terminal illness, his corneas could still be donated. Brian and his mother had not discussed donation, but Ballard chose to give the gift of sight because knowing that her only son lives on has helped her through her grief.
“Brian touched my heart in the most profound ways and he continues to do so,” she said. “He gave me courage, strength and the ability to face the many challenges associated with Duchenne's. He had the ability to cheer people up who were faced with difficulties. He taught me many lessons about life and death and how to accept whatever happens. I was and will always be so proud to be his mom.”
Ballard cherishes memories of Brian’s favorite trips to Florida and his love of sports, especially watching UCONN women's basketball and his favorite football team, the Green Bay Packers. He also enjoyed spending time with friends and family and playing with his beloved cat, Frisky.
Milford residents rallied around Brian as he battled his medical challenges, helping to build a special walkway at Walnut Beach so he could get to the water, and supporting the family in other ways.
Ballard has become a major advocate for organ and tissue donation. She is a member and on the board of Team Connecticut for the Transplant Games of America, which are made up of recipients, caregivers, donor families and supporters. Transplant recipients participate in the Transplant Games, an Olympic style competition held every two years around the United States. The Games are a way of showcasing the restored health of children and adults who were given a second chance at life through donation. Ballard said, “As a donor mom, it fills my heart with joy to see recipients so full of life.”
Ballard will once again volunteer at LifeChoice Donor Services’ 2nd Annual Blue & Green USATF Certified 5K and 2 Mile Walk/Fun Run On Saturday, May 2, to gather the community in support of organ and tissue donation and transplantation. Funds raised from the event will be used to educate the public about the need for more people in Connecticut and Massachusetts to join the Donor Registry and to support donor families.
The event will take place at 21 Griffin Rd North, Windsor, and will feature entertainment, local food trucks, the Wall of Hope, and all registrants will receive a Donate Life t-shirt. For more information go to bluegreenwalk.org.
In this country, 21 people die each day waiting for an organ donation, according to LifeChoice Donor Services. The organization said a single organ donor can save the lives of eight people, while a single tissue donor can save and heal 50 others through needed heart valves, corneas, skin, bone and tendons that mend hearts, prevent or cure blindness, heal burns and save limbs.
“Even though Brian is no longer living I feel that his spirit lives on because of his double cornea donation,” said Ballard. “My hope is that whoever received his corneas sees the world as Brian did — a beautiful place.”
For more information about LifeChoice and to join the Donor Registry, visit lifechoiceopo.org or call 1-800-874-5215.