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Brandon Sheppard was the kind of person who would let a struggling classmate beat him in a race in elementary school—just to give him a win.
He was a man who didn’t want to go hunting with his dad because he didn’t want to harm another living being. So his parents weren’t surprised at all to learn he had registered to be an organ donor when they were facing one of the most difficult decisions of their lives.
On July 4, 2020, Terry and Donna Sheppard of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, rushed to the hospital when they learned Brandon had been involved in a water accident at a friend’s party. Emergency medical personnel had been able to restart his heart, but he was in a coma, and there had been no oxygen to his brain for 40 minutes. Doctors told them they could treat him for a while, but even if he woke up, he never would be the same again. Sadly, after a few days of waiting, watching, and hoping, Brandon’s condition worsened, and the diagnosis of brain death was confirmed. At this point, only the life-support machines were keeping Brandon’s body functioning and it was time to make some decisions.
“The hardest part was not being able to ask him what he wanted us to do,” says Terry. “I didn’t want to give up.”
Terry and Donna looked in Brandon’s wallet and found his driver’s license, which indicated he had made the decision to be an organ donor. The organ donor registry was checked, to confirm he was a registered donor, and Brandon’s name was listed. At that point, it was clear what the next step was – honor Brandon’s decision to be a life-saving organ donor.
Brandon was able to save five people’s lives by donating his organs. But not only was he an organ donor hero—he also was a catalyst through which his family spread the word about organ donation. His siblings spelled out the words “Room of a Hero” in Post-It notes on the window of his hospital room and many family members and friends (including Terry) registered to be organ donors after hearing his story. “It wouldn’t surprise me if a couple hundred people registered as organ donors because of Brandon,” Terry says.
The past year has been incredibly difficult for Brandon’s family members as they remember the man who loved wrestling and worked with at-risk youth in an after-school program for his local school district. However, they are grateful he had the opportunity to continue helping others—even after his own life had ended. “The miracle that we were praying for became miracles for other people,” Donna says. “God knew. He already had those miracles in place.”