Nichole Carter says ever since her brother Matthew received his learner's permit, he wanted to be an organ donor. Saturday, his family got the chance to meet someone who is alive because of that decision.
Matthew, a 17-year-old senior at Comeaux High School, was shot during an attempted armed robbery in January 2020. He died at a local hospital just days later, and Matthew's family followed through with his wishes.
This Easter Sunday, more than a year after her brother died, Nichole and her daughter were doing their nightly prayers when she got a message saying, "Because of your family's love, I live." She asked what the sender meant and he simply responded with a date.
Fast forward three weeks, Carter's family gathered at Pizza Artista in Broussard to meet a man they hadn't heard of until just recently, 63-year-old David Bass of Long Beach, Mississippi.
"Today we are going to meet one of Matthew's organ recipients," said Nichole. "This was his idea, this is all thanks to him. I know he's ecstatic. He's with us today, he's fully excited that this is happening. He had a part in all this, he did this."
"I can't imagine what you've been through, I really, really can't," Bass said to Matthew's loved ones as they embraced each another.
Bass suffers from Alpha-1 syndrome, a rare genetic disease that caused cirrhosis of the liver. After 12 years, his health began to get progressively worse until he eventually needed a liver transplant. In late January 2020, he received a phone call in the middle of the night letting him know a liver was available. He and his wife traveled to New Orleans where he endured a 14-hour operation, during which he says he was given 96 units of blood and almost died twice.
"But they didn't give up," he said. "It was nothing short of a miracle. It was God's miracle. God had his hand all over it."
A year later, he says he feels very healthy and decided to reach out to Matthew's family to let them know that his gift of life wasn't taken for granted.
"For 17 years old, he was going to be an amazing adult, an amazing person. He was going to make an impact in many people's lives and he was taken away so soon. It's really a tragedy," Bass said. "Tragic situation they went through. It was not my decision, but if I could have made the decision I would rather Matt live. I'm 63 years old, had a great life. Matt was just getting started. It's not my choice, but if I could have made that choice, I would have."
Bass said he's thankful for the gift because it means his new grandchild, born in November, will "have a pappy for awhile." He hopes meeting the Carter family is the beginning of a relationship that will last for years to come, adding, "I totally feel like that is my family over there now."
"I knew when I walked out of the truck and saw Matt's brother, the emotions just started flowing. Walking through that door...whether they want me or not, I'm part of the family now. They're part of my family," he smiled, telling Matthew's godchild Cody, "Your best buddy is my best buddy now."
He hopes to let others know just how important organ donation is.
"Had Matt not cared enough to be an organ donor, I might not be here. Time is critical. If you can be an organ donor, do it."
Matthew's legacy, his sister said, is to have people be like him: kind and helpful. Help people, save people. That, she added, is what we're here to do.
"I miss my brother," Nichole said. "I miss him more than I could ever say, every day is a struggle. It's overwhelming, but the best kind of overwhelming. He was a helper and he's saving lives every day. He's still here. He's still saving the day."
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