Sheila and Terry Walters’ son, Caleb, was killed in a motorcycle accident shortly before his 21st birthday in 2008. The family was devastated, but they remembered that Caleb wanted to be an organ and tissue donor. Unfortunately, the coroner ordered an autopsy, so the time needed to conduct it would prevent organ donation from happening.
“We knew Caleb wanted to be an organ donor, so we wanted to honor that wish,” Sheila said. “We wanted something good to come out of our loss.” The Walters left the hospital that day shattered and broken, first, by the loss of Caleb and, second, because they could not honor his wish to be an organ donor.
“It’s difficult to tell you how joyful it felt to receive a phone call from the Illinois Eye-Bank just hours later at home,” Sheila recalled. “Surrounded by friends and family on our deck on a beautiful and tragic day, our flag flying outside at half mast, tears of joy began filling our eyes at the hope that Caleb could be a cornea donor. We could do one last thing for our son and positively enhance the life of another. His life and legacy of helping others would continue; he would make a difference.”
The Illinois Eye-Bank has been a blessing to the family, Sheila said. “It helped us focus during our grief. It gave us a positive outlook on life and death. It helped us see that this is not just about us and our loss but about others and love.” Sheila and Terry are now volunteers for the Illinois Eye-Bank. They have shared their story, signed up new donors and “adopted” recipients who don’t know their donor families.
Sheila and her family feel God is helping to heal their broken hearts through Caleb’s cornea donation. “Being in touch with Caleb’s recipients has brought comfort,” Sheila said. “I feel so relieved to know that Caleb’s corneas are making a difference in their lives.” And through their work with the Eye-Bank, Sheila said they have witnessed “first hand the reason and purpose for organ and tissue donation on a human level.”