6 Year Old’s Legacy Of Giving Lives On Through Organ Donation
Six-year-old Raven Goff never met a stranger. If she didn’t know your name, she’d simply call you ‘friend.’ Her family recalls her generosity, always more worried about others than herself. Sometimes, that generosity meant several trips to Target to replace the items she had given away, like her winter coat.
“I don’t know how many coats I had to buy for her because she would take it to school and give it away,” said Tanner Trujillo, Raven’s mom. “I would ask her where her coat was, and she’d say ‘well you know Katie, or whoever, needed a coat because she was cold.’ I’d ask her if we could get it back tomorrow and she’d say ‘No, I gave it to her. It was a gift.’”
This was typical Raven. Little did anyone know at the time that it was also a beautiful foreshadowing of the legacy she’d leave behind.
“She is the most generous, caring, loving and compassionate human being that I have ever met in my entire life,” said Shane Goff, Raven’s father.
Raven’s life took a tragic turn on Saturday, Jan. 11, following a terrible accident. When she arrived at Cook Children’s Medical Center, doctors immediately went to work, but nothing could be done to save the small, blonde-haired girl with big blue eyes. She suffered a catastrophic injury and her brain was no longer functioning (Cook Children’s has agreed to honor the request of Raven’s family to withhold the details of her injury).
That night, Dani Ransonette, RN, arrived for her shift as a bedside nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). She looked over Raven’s chart while the day shift staff finished up in Raven’s room.
“You want to make sure you are prepared for what you are going to see,” Dani said while standing in an empty room in the PICU. “And we always say, ‘I can only imagine’ but you really can’t. Our brain doesn’t allow us to truly imagine grief that strong.”
Even with 22 years of experience at Cook Children’s, talking about this brought tears to Dani’s eyes. She says seeing families on the worst day of their life is never easy and she relates to them because she has children too.
“I knew it was bad. I knew that from past experiences with situations like this, that honesty is very much appreciated,” Dani explained. “I think their (parents) process of coping starts from that very moment.”
For Tanner and Shane, the painful reality was setting in.
“For every question that we asked, we asked multiple times because we didn’t always hear it the first time, or the second time or even the third. Every answer was the same and everybody knew the outcome. Nobody gave me false hope,” Tanner explained.
“It was just, with the heartache, and just the literal heart break that I was going through,” said Shane. “I felt God with me every single second that I was in that building.”
Soon, Tanner and Shane were faced with a question no parent should ever hear – “Have you considered organ donation?”
“It was never a reservation or a second thought. If someone can use Raven, if she can help in any way, that was the end,” said Tanner.
Tanner and Shane, who are divorced and both remarried, were surrounded by family and friends as they made the decision to let Raven live on by giving the gift of life to others.
This is what her father says she would have wanted.
“If she knew that her little body was sick, the very first thing that she would say is, 'How can I make somebody else better?'” said Shane.
For the next several days and nights, their focus zeroed in on finding recipients for Raven’s organs.
“Whenever you know that people need organs, you don’t know how fast they need them. You think they’re on this list and they will hangout on this list until they get this organ,” said Tanner. “That’s not the case. These people are very sick. When they say they need organs now, they need them now, so that added urgency for us.”
Coordinators from LifeGift, an organization dedicated to helping match organ donors with recipients in Texas, across the United States and Canada, quickly got to work doing all they could to find matches for Raven.
“It starts with authorization from the family, and after that, we are on-site from beginning until the very end,” said Susan Nelson, RN, organ clinical operations manager with LifeGift. “The sickest and most suitable candidates will be at the top, so we literally start at the top of the list and make these offers electronically. The transplant centers are able to look at the offer and look at all of the diagnostics, the blood tests we’ve done and any information we can provide about Raven as a donor. They will make a decision and say, ‘Yes this is perfect for my recipient,’ or not and we go down the list.”
After three days of tireless work, LifeGift had secured recipients for Raven’s organs. The time had come for her little body to be taken to surgery and finally be removed from the machines that had kept her breathing since the accident.
“Raven’s family was so supportive of donation from the very beginning,” said LifeGift Donation Systems Specialist S. Anne Willingham.
Anne is the LifeGift representative who began working with Raven’s family soon after they decided to donate her organs.
“We’re walking alongside these families and we are part of the team that walks them through this journey,” said Anne. “Families find hope through this. This is the positive they can take away from the situation.”
For her parents, this was the ultimate gift Raven could give.
“Every single day, I told her, baby girl, you’re going to change this world,” said Shane. “And I know as hard as this is right now, she’s already changed this world. And she’s going to continue to change this world.”
On Wednesday, Jan. 15, after a special request from Raven’s family, an ‘honor walk’ was held to pay tribute to the little girl with the big heart. Lining the walls of the PICU, many wore pink and purple clothing, or ‘pinkpurple’ as Raven would often say her favorite colors were one. With tears streaming down faces, they watched as Raven’s parents escorted her bed down the hallway on their final walk with her.
“And I was walking with Dani, who I think thought I was going to lose it, and I just told her I felt happy,” said Tanner. “I think my job as a mother was to lead Raven where she needed to go. Raven never questioned me. She took my word for what it is and she never questioned me. I felt that the walk was my last place to take her.”
And now she lives on, offering hope and a second chance at life to others.
“It was a tremendous honor to work with them [the family] during this time,” Anne said. “It was incredible to see the support and the love that they had and their grace through this process. They fought through their grief to bring hope to other people. It was because Raven was going to live on through others.”
“Knowing that there’s going to be families to have that opportunity to experience the things that we did. With life and just love, running and playing, and jumping. That is the greatest feeling in the world,” said Shane. “On my worst day of my entire life, was another mommy and daddy’s greatest day of their life. And to know that, there is nothing that would make her more proud or more happy.”
Donate Life Texas Registry
Since Jan. 2019, 23 families have selflessly given the gift of life through organ and tissue donation at Cook Children’s. All of these donors are honored in the Prayer Garden at Cook Children’s Medical Center.
If you are interested in becoming an organ donor, join the Donate Life Texas Registry. By joining the registry, you give hope to thousands of people awaiting the transplant they need to survive.