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Mom Loses Son, Carries a Piece of Him with Her

A “yes” to donation impacts the Mahoney family in more than one amazing way.

In March 2019, Laurie Mahoney tore her ACL/MCL following a skiing accident and was told that the only option for a full recovery would be surgery. For someone as active and energetic as Laurie, this was difficult news to hear, but Laurie and her family had experienced a far greater tragedy just two years prior.

On July 19, 2017, Laurie’s world was shattered when her son, Ryan, suddenly and tragically passed away at the age of 34. Ryan was someone that once you met, you would never forget. He had a heart of gold, an infectious laugh and was loved by all. Ryan was an avid and talented hockey player, who was first introduced to the sport when he was just 5 years old and played up until his passing. Ryan’s mission in life was to make sure that everyone had the same access to the sport he loved by donating his used hockey equipment to those in need and arranging for scholarship funds to help offset costs for others. 

The small ray of hope for Laurie and family after his passing was his decision to help others through donation. Laurie recalls the moment years ago when Ryan made the decision to register as a donor: “I took Ryan to get his driver’s license at the age of 16. When he was filling out the paperwork, he looked at me and asked me what it meant to be a donor. I explained to him that it would mean in case of his death, others would receive his organs, eyes and/or tissue. He did not even hesitate and replied, ‘I want to do that Mom.’ That was Ryan, always thinking of others.”

After his death, Ryan was able to save and heal others through the gift of tissue donation. It is here where Ryan’s legacy and Laurie’s upcoming surgery would intersect.

Not only was Laurie told that surgery was her only option for recovery following her ski accident, she was also informed that surgery would involve receiving tissue from a deceased donor. Upon receiving that news, Laurie says, “I immediately thought of Ryan and the fact that he was a tissue donor. I remember thinking there was a very small chance his tissue would be available; I had an overwhelming feeling to inquire.”

Through Laurie’s determination and the efforts of American Tissue Services Foundation (ATSF) and Medtronic, not only was Ryan’s tissue made available for Laurie, she would be the very first recipient of his gifts!

Prior to surgery, Laurie was not able to walk without the aid of crutches or walker, she couldn’t drive and needed family and friends to help her with daily tasks. Today, post-surgery, Laurie is walking pain-free, biking 20 miles, and looking forward to hitting the slopes again. Laurie shares, “I will carry a part of Ryan with me for life and that has been a huge comfort to me – the silver lining in this terrible tragedy. Ryan will live with me forever, together we shall be one!”

Laurie is now a LifeSource Donate Life Ambassador and shares Ryan’s legacy and the importance of donation with others. Laurie hopes to inspire more people to register as a donor and to save and heal lives, just as her son healed hers.