A Daughter's Legacy - From a Donor Mom!

On March 25, 2008, we received the most terrifying and unimaginable news. Our daughter Heather Miller, who was 21 years old at the time, was involved in a single vehicle car crash. Heather was six weeks away from graduating from the WVU School of Nursing at the time of the crash. The offender was drunk, drove at a high rate of speed, lost control of the vehicle, demolished a bus shelter, and the vehicle went airborne and flipped on its roof into a hill. Heather was partially ejected from the vehicle and pinned into the hillside with the car on top of her. She suffered a horrific head injury and sustained other injuries as well. One week later, March 31, 2008, Heather was declared brain dead.

During this tragic loss, my husband Gary and I had our first introduction to CORE. Heather was an organ donor. It was Heather’s choice to give the most selfless gift any person can give, "The Gift Of Life". Heather was able to donate her heart, both of her kidneys, liver, tissue, and bone. Heather’s motto was "Here Comes The Sun", as the tattoo on her left foot clearly stated.

As parents, Gary and I never imagined what an impact this could make on our family as well as the community of Wheeling, WV. Our family attended the "Special Place" ceremony the year following her death. What an absolute amazing event! We have learned so much about organ donation in the past 8 ½ years.

We were informed that if we wrote letters to CORE, they would pass them on to Heather’s recipients. If they chose to write us they could. Of course, we did this in hopes of meeting any of the special people who received her organs. Since the time of her death, we have had the opportunity to meet Heather’s left kidney recipient. She is from San Diego, California. We have welcomed her into our lives and stay in contact with her. We have also been blessed to have met her liver recipient as well. He resides in Stroudsburg, PA. There really are no words to describe the feeling… On the most devastating day of our life, on the day we buried our daughter, unknowingly, by Heather’s most selfless act and choice of being an organ, gave families “hope”, and gave complete strangers a second chance at life! What a legacy!

Heather’s portrait was chosen to be a part of the Donate Life Float at the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California in January of 2012. Her memorial Floragraph was represented on the float. The theme of the float was "One More Day". Our family went to Pasadena. This was an absolutely extraordinary, breath-taking, honorable, healing, and heavenly experience.

The family/friends of Heather have organized a golf scramble to honor Heather’s legacy and what she stood for. The great success of the "Heather Miller Memorial Golf Classic" is a direct result of continual support and efforts by a spectacular family, as well as friends, an extended community, our MADD family, law enforcement family, our family of transplant recipients and donors, volunteers, CORE, and Team Alleghenies. We now have fully endowed funds in the WVU School of Nursing Foundation as well as the Ohio County Schools Foundation. To date, over 100 Nursing Scholarships have been awarded to deserving nursing students in the name of Heather Miller!

In January of 2016, we were humbled as well to fund a Nursing Scholarship at Ohio Valley Medical Center. The Hospital Room in Intensive Care was dedicated to Heather and a plaque placed at the entrance of the room. The staff still refers to the room as “Heather’s Room”, because of the impact she had on them.

Our daughter has brought so much joy and honor to our family even in her tragic passing. Our healing process is a continual stepping stone. For the gift of life she has given to others, and the many gifts she has given to us, she will always be our hero.

Jody Miller's Story