Mom Who Died Days After Giving Birth Becomes ‘1 in a Million’ Organ Donor to 12

Kathleen Thorson

Kathleen Thorson spent much of last year eagerly awaiting the birth of her fourth child. What she never could have known, however, is that just five days after giving birth, she would be fighting for her life. Sadly, it was a battle she would lose, leaving her entire family devastated while trying to make sense of her loss. In the midst of their grief, the Thorsons are also celebrating her life in a way they never expected: Her decision to become an organ donor helped save the lives of 12 strangers in need -- a number that is no small feat.

  • Shortly before her death, Kathleen and her husband welcomed a new baby boy named Teddy.

    Kathleen gave birth December 29, just before ringing in the new year, according to a GoFundMe page created for the family. But less than a week later, she began experiencing unexpected complications.

    "Kathleen was rushed to the emergency room due to severe bleeding in her brain," her friend Richard Stubbs explained on the fundraising page. 

    As for why, Stubbs shares that the cause of the bleed is still unknown.

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  • Despite how hard her doctors fought to save her, it quickly became clear that Kathleen's condition was rapidly deteriorating. 

    Just days after happily welcoming a new little life into the world, her family prepared themselves for the worst: saying goodbye. 

    Looking toward any bit of hope they could, friends and family gathered around her bedside and prayed that she would qualify to be an organ donor after her death -- something the young mom had strongly wanted.

  • After her death, doctors cleared her for organ donation -- but even her family was stunned by just how many organs were able to be passed on.

    On January 10, Stubbs shared in an update to the GoFundMe page, which noted that Kathleen's passing has been incredibly hard on everyone who knows her. But of course, "no one more so than for her wonderful husband Jesse," Stubbs shared.

    "I have been trying to find the right words all day for this update, and I am convinced that there are no right words," he continued. "Kathleen was at her center a woman who rejoiced in all things cheerful and bright."

    So, on that note, Stubbs shared that one of the only bright spots he could seem to find in her death is that doctors cleared her to donate a whopping 12 organs.

    "The nurse told [me] the chances that someone is a candidate of this magnitude is less than one in a million," Richard explained. "But anyone who knew Kathleen already knew that [she was one in a million].

    "We would happily do anything it took to bring Kathleen back to us," he wrote, "but we are so grateful that someone else’s mother, daughter, father, friend, brother, sister, son or love will be coming home thanks to Kathleen’s ultimate sacrifice."

  • The family's original goal was to raise $50,000 to put toward her medical expenses, but so far they've raised over $110,000.

    The GoFundMe page noted that the extra money will go toward a garden for Kathleen's children to enjoy, as well as helping Jesse pay for everyday expenses so he can spend more time at home with his children.

    The young mother's story has touched the hearts of thousands since it first began making headlines. It's even caught the attention of actress Kristen Bell, who posted about the mom on her Instagram page this week.

    "Jesse," the actress wrote in her January 21 post, "our thoughts are with your family during this unimaginably difficult time."

    The actress's baby care line, HelloBello, also gave the family a free year's supply of diapers for Teddy.

  • Despite all the generous gifts and words of comfort, Kathleen's friends and family are still trying to grapple with what happened.

    "We love her, and we miss her. We always will," Stubbs wrote on the fundraising page. "May God watch over her heart as it continues to pound more rapidly at the sight of children playing, may he fill her lungs as they bring the scent of lavender fields to another, and may the angels in heaven rejoice as they receive Kathleen home.

    "We love you Kathleen Ann Thorson," he continued, adding, "We will see you again."