AMES, Iowa – An Ames family’s life changed forever in October of 2017. Out of tragedy, the family was able to find joy again.
Mom Joanie Perry said, “Teddy was known as a gentle giant to everyone."
Teddy Perry came into the world May 25, 1998. "Teddy didn't have a name for two days, and I kept referring to him as Teddy Bear. That's how Teddy got his name, and he ended up being a Teddy Bear his whole life," said Joanie.
Teddy died at 19 years of age. "He did have some issues with bullying," said Joanie.
"They said that Teddy had been found on a gravel road with a gunshot wound to his head, self-inflicted," Joanie said describing the night of October 18, 2017.
"The chaplain at the time told me he was still alive at that time and had been taken by helicopter to Des Moines to Methodist," she said.
Joanie said she held out hope but could feel her son was gone. Her fear was confirmed when she arrived at the hospital. "He told us right then and there Teddy wasn't going to make it. And, my mom was the one right away without hesitation, do you want to donate Teddy's organs? And, I said absolutely."
"Although it was the hardest thing you'll ever hear, everything changed also to become a blessing at the same time," said Joanie.
The family spent 55 hours in the hospital with Teddy as the team coordinated the transplant. They got to make keepsake pictures of his hand prints, sit by him, and hear where his organs would go.
Grandma Mary Perry said, "21-year-old male got his kidney, 31-year-old male got his left kidney, 27-year-old female got his lungs, 57-year-old male got his liver, and a 65-year-old male got his heart."
Teddy's story is now shared on the Wall of Heroes at Iowa Methodist Medical Center, along with about 80 other donors. "We're seeing more awareness about what it means for that family that has lost somebody. That whatever brought them into the hospital isn't the end of their story. It's not the end of their legacy," said Meg Rodriguez with the Iowa Donor Network.
Teddy’s legacy lives on through the five people who received his organs. The Perry family has now met all of the recipients. "They've all become family. We just love them so much," said Mary.
Pictures of the five hold a special place on Teddy's grandparents' living room wall because the gift of life isn't just for the organ recipient. Mary said, "And for the first time since Teddy passed, I have joy. I know what joy is now, and that I can have it. And, that's what the five people have given us.”
Teddy’s family will share their story at the annual Service of Remembrance at Iowa Methodist Medical Center next week. At least four of his organ recipients will join the family.