Growing up, Mike Erickson played football and enjoyed the outdoors. Fishing, hunting, trail biking, canoeing, swimming, ice fishing – he loved them all. He was very quick-witted, with an exceptional sense of humor. His mother Dorothy Beckman describes him as a computer geek and said he had talked to going to school in the computer field.
Before graduation, Mike enlisted in the Marine Corp. He completed basic training in California where, in his off time, he enjoyed the ocean and beaches. Mike was very proud of being a Marine. Dorothy recalls his words when he came home from basic training, “I thought it would be tougher than that.”
Giving the Gift of Life
Mike tragically passed away at the age of 28 at Ministry St. Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield, Wis. He donated his tissues, organs and corneas, helping more than 100 people through his gift.
“When I got the word that he was in the ER, I headed out immediately,” Dorothy said. “My mind was full of Mike and his life, which was ending way too soon. I knew before I arrived at the hospital that if it were an option, Mike would have wanted to help others one last time. That's why I made the decision to donate.”
Dorothy believes in the gift of life and has become an advocate for it. She has shared the letters she has received from recipients of Mike’s gifts in an effort to demonstrate that “because of, or in spite of, our losses, many others will have the opportunity to have better lives. We can't do better than that.”
Mike’s parents have exchanged letters with Colin Lepley, of Versailles, Mo., the recipient of one of Mike’s tissue grafts. Colin has expressed his deep sense of gratitude to Dorothy and Denny for the gift of tissue donation from Mike. Dorothy expressed that she and her husband had been hoping and praying that the recipients of Mike’s gifts had been getting stronger and resuming normal lives, and receiving the letter from Colin helped to answer that question in their mind.
“If you were wondering what kind of individual our son was, he was kind hearted and quiet, and I know he would be very happy to know that part of him lives on in you,” wrote Dorothy in a letter to Colin. “I hope his gift makes a positive difference in your life and that you go on to do all the things you dream of.”
Receiving the Gift of Life
During Colin’s junior year baseball season, he injured his knee sliding into second base. The day after his last baseball game of the season, Colin could not get out of bed because his knee had locked and he could not bend it. He visited his doctor, and within four days, he was in surgery.
Colin’s doctor told him that he could repair his knee by removing 50 percent of the weight bearing in that knee. The surgeon would need to perform an allograft transplant to replace what he was removing – called an osteocondral (OCD) lesion of the medial femoral condyle.
Even though Colin missed his senior year of playing the sports he was so good at, he is extremely grateful for the ability to again be active and live a normal life.
“Thanks to my donor, I will be able to function normally in my daily life and live without the pain it was causing me,” Colin said. “I have truly been blessed and even though I did not have my dream senior year, I have learned a more important lesson in life. I will be able to function normally again and will not take that for granted.”
Colin also says that he plans on being a donor himself, which is something he never had thought of before he needed help himself and “realized how special it is to receive a gift that is so important.” Colin has been inspired by his donor’s gift to go into the physical therapy field so that he can focus on helping others heal.
Mike’s gift of tissue donation is being commemorated through a special portrait of Mike that will adorn the 2015 Donate Life Float in the Rose Parade on January 1, 2015 in Pasadena, Calif. Mike’s floragraph, a special memorial portrait, will be decorated with grains, flowers, seeds, spices and other organic materials, and is one of 72 that will grace the Donate Life float. And tissue recipient Colin will be one of the 30 riders on the same float.
RTI Donor Services, the not-for-profit tissue recovery agency that facilitated Mike’s tissue donation, is sponsoring Mike’s floragraph on the float and Colin’s spot as a float rider, as well as the trip to Pasadena, Calif. for Mike and Colin’s families to participate in the Donate Life Float festivities and sit in the grandstands as the float travels by. RTI Donor Services is a founding sponsor of the Donate Life Float and one of more than 100 associations across the nation supporting the float project.
Today, more than 123,000 children and adults await life-saving organ transplants in the United States. Hundreds of thousands more are in need of a tissue transplant to save or greatly enhance the quality of their lives. Visit www.donatelife.net/register-now to find out how to designate your donation wishes in your state.
More information on the Donate Life float is available on the float’s official website at www.donatelifefloat.org.
RTI Donor Services is a not-for-profit tissue recovery agency dedicated to serving donor families and working in collaboration with the donation community and healthcare facilities in perpetuating the gift of tissue donation.
Erin Morton, APR
Manager, Corporate Communications and Family Services
RTI Donor Services