Giving Life After Death

Next month's issue of Redbook magazine features a story about an organ donor that caught the eye of The Early Show.

"She Gave Them Life" tells the story of Beth O'Brien, a girl who died of cancer in 1997.

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Beth's story is also about her parents and how they made an excruciating decision that wound up saving more than one life, reports Jane Clayson.
Pat and Carol O'Brien will never forget the day they got the news: Their 6-year-old daughter Beth had an inoperable brain tumor.

"We just kept looking at each other, saying, 'Is this really happening?'" recalls Carol O'Brien. "It was like we were in a nightmare, and we were going to wake up and say it's all over tomorrow. But it wasn't."

The O'Briens packed what time they had left with activities, including trips to Disney World and to Lourdes, France, hoping for a miracle.

"As I watched her there every day become weaker, I asked myself, 'Why are we here? Why are we doing this? We could be home. What if she dies?'" recalls Carol O'Brien.

And she kept a secret from her husband: She had asked about the possibility of donating her daughter's organs. In fact she was embarrassed to tell anybody, so she made the inquiry anonymously.

"All I kept thinking about was doing this and people thinking, 'Wow, you're trying to give her organs away, and she's not even gone yet.' And I felt guilty about that, not only [about] what I thought people would say about me, but I felt guilty about that," says Carol O'Brien, who eventually made the difficult decision together with her husband.

Because Beth's cancer had not spread beyond her brain, she was an eligible donor: The day she died doctors transplanted her various organs into four people.

Amy Brown, who suffers from a genetic disorder, received Beth's liver and a kidney. She needed them to survive. "Thank you for the gift of life," she says.

"We were already on borrowed time when we got the call," says her mother Bonita Brown.

While Amy may need another kidney transplant, her mother says the O'Briens gave her a second chance.

"The words aren't there. Thank you. God bless you," says Bonita Brown. "There's nothing you can say to thank someone for a gift like that."

Myong Romano received Beth's other kidney. For her, it meant an end to a painful and cumbersome dialysis routine.

And Danny McGinn, born without a left ventricle, received Beth's heart. While his body is showing signs of rejection, the 10-year-old is a fighter.

"He just kind orolls with the punches," says his mom Kathy McGinn. "He gets sick, and he's down. He fights hard, and he gets better. And he just moves on. I think it's harder on the parents sometime than it is on the kids," she adds.

Now Pat O'Brien says he understands why his prayers were not answered in Lourdes, France.

"We knew that Beth was going to die if a miracle didn't happen. But the miracle for us was that she was able to extend the lives of other people," he says.
If you are interested in more information on organ donations, visit Organ Donation, a government Web site, or the Coalition on Donations Web site.

To learn about a man who found a living donor within his own family, visit "Son's Liver Means Dad's Life."

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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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