16-Year-Old's Tragic Death Saves Lives (VIDEO)

andrea clevelandWhen 16-year-old Andrea Cleveland died in a car accident, she left a terrible, gaping hole in her parents' lives. She died far too young. But in a way, she lives on -- in the bodies of several other people around the country who got a second chance at life because of her.

Andrea was registered as an organ donor. The teen made a point of signing up as soon as she got her driver's license. She couldn't have known how soon she would be making good on that promise -- just months later! But the people who benefited from her gift will be forever grateful.

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A 2 1/2-year old toddler has a new liver. A 30-year-old woman has new lungs. And the list goes on and on. What a bittersweet joy for Andrea's parents. It must be so gratifying to know that their daughter was so generous in life. It must curb the pain just a little to know that a little part of their daughter lives on in these people. But how sad that they lost such a kind, thoughtful daughter.

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Teenagers can be challenging for parents. But they can also be fearless, idealistic, and luminously inspiring. I hope Andrea inspires other teens -- and for that matter, other adults -- to register as organ donors. It's an unusual way for a girl to show that she believes she's a valuable person, but I think it means something that Andrea thought she was worth passing on parts of herself in the event of her death.

"She didn’t deserve to go but she’s an angel now, she’s my angel, she’s Keegan’s angel, she’s everybody's," says Meleah Richter, the woman who breathes today thanks to Andrea's lungs. What a loving legacy to leave behind.

How would you feel if your teen registered as an organ donor?

 

Image via ABC News

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