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After a Tragic Loss, Parents Choose to Give Three Other Families a Miracle.

Donor Mom, Tanya Estenson, reflects on the care and compassion she received after the untimely death of her daughter, Taryn. 

My name is Tanya Estenson. I live in Stevens County in west central Minnesota. My daughter, Taryn Dalain Paul is a donor hero.

Taryn was a fun, kind, caring, and loving person. She had been a dancer since she was 3 years old and over the years had found a passion for tap dance. She loved children and was thrilled to be a big sister to her brother Paden. Taryn worked doing childcare and helped with preschool dance classes. Taryn surrounded herself with great friends that lifted her up, encouraged, and supported her. She was a typical teenager in many ways but was also extraordinary! 

On the evening of August 24, 2017, Taryn was in a car accident. She was rescued from water, resuscitated, and flown to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. Taryn remained on ventilated support and ECMO support for just over a week. As hard as it was, I’m so grateful for that extra time. The hospital staff was amazing to Taryn and our entire family. They took care of all of us. I think of them often, her pediatric ICU nurses, her ECMO team, doctors, chaplains & child life specialists. Their skill, compassion & guidance was something I’ve never experienced before. Beyond the medical care, they did other things that meant so much, like braiding Taryn’s hair, printing pictures, making sure we ate and slept, and giving Paden an outlet to play and be a kid in a very confusing time. 

My sweet Taryn passed away on September 1, 2017, just before the start of her sophomore year of high school. She was 15 years old. Nearly 800 people attended her funeral. This number does not speak to her popularity or the number of people we know. It shows the support given to us by our community, family, and friends when the unimaginable happened.   

“The time waiting was hard, but when they gave us the news that recipients had been identified, I knew in my heart we did the right thing.”

LifeSource has also given us the community of support that started in the hospital. Taryn’s stepdad and I sat with Taryn through the entire organ donation process. The LifeSource staff was so gentle and caring. Absolutely nothing can prepare you for those final days. The time waiting was hard, but when they gave us the news that recipients had been identified, I knew in my heart we did the right thing. LifeSource has also given us ways to remember Taryn and celebrate her life through events and legacy opportunities. They have not forgotten her or us. Nothing can take away the heartache and grief from losing a child. We are still heartbroken we didn’t get our miracle but are thankful that because of Taryn’s gifts, 3 other families got their miracle! 

The last couple of years our local driver’s education program has reached out asking me to speak about organ donation. This experience gave me the courage to become a LifeSource Ambassador. I got the email saying I had been accepted as an ambassador on the 4th anniversary of Taryn’s accident. No coincidence, just a sure sign I am on the right path. Talking to others about organ donation gives me a chance to tell others about Taryn and it’s a way to physically continue being her mom! I’m hoping it opens path for the students to talk with their families about donation, a conversation I wish I’d had with Taryn.

Taryn has the quote “Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier” framed in her bedroom. This quote helped inspire Taryn’s Trail. Taryn’s Trail’s mission is to help spread love and kindness in her memory. I have been honored to give an annual scholarship at her high school and witness other good deeds in our community and beyond because of Taryn’s Trail. It also gives me another way to share about organ donation. Taryn may not be physically with us anymore, but she sure continues to make a big impact on our world! 

flowers around text “Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier”