Growing up, Mike Erickson played football and enjoyed the outdoors. He was very quick-witted, with an exceptional sense of humor. His mother Dorothy describes him as a computer geek and said he had talked about going to school in the computer field. Before graduation, Mike enlisted in the Marine Corp.
Giving the Gift of Life
Mike tragically passed away at the age of 28. 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. “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 exchanged letters with Colin, the recipient of one of Mike’s tissue grafts. Colin expressed his deep sense of gratitude to Mike’s parents for the gift of tissue donation. Dorothy expressed that she had been hoping and praying that the recipients of Mike’s gifts had been getting stronger and resuming normal lives, and receiving Colin’s letter helped to answer that question.
“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. “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. One morning, 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.
“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 I have learned an 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 “realized how special it is to receive a gift that is so important.”
A special memorial
Mike was honored for his gift of tissue donation through a special portrait of Mike that adorned the 2015 Donate Life Float in the Rose Parade on January 1, 2015 in Pasadena, Calif. Mike’s floragraph, a special memorial portrait, was decorated with grains, flowers, seeds, spices and other organic materials, and was one of 72 that graced the Donate Life Float. Tissue recipient Colin was one of the 30 riders on the same float.
In advance of the 2015 parade, Mike’s family had the opportunity to meet Colin for the first time in person. Following their emotional meeting, they spent several days in Pasadena together celebrating Mike’s life and the gift of tissue donation that Colin received.
RTI Donor Services, the not-for-profit tissue recovery agency that facilitated Mike’s tissue donation, sponsored Mike’s floragraph on the float and Colin’s spot as a float rider, as well as the trip to Pasadena, Calif. for both families to participate in the Donate Life Float festivities and sit in the grandstands as the float traveled 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.
The two families were brought back together for a special event on March 16, 2015, during which Mikes’s parents and Colin shared their donation and transplantation stories with RTI employees, and the framed floragraph was presented to Mike’s family by Colin and his mother.
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.
About RTI Donor Services
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.