A decade has passed, but memories of Jennifer Neri Lorette are always vivid.
"I feel that she's with me," says her mom, Lorraine Tierney, who chaperoned her daughter on a church outing to a nearby sledding hill in Colchester. While tending to her youngest child ready, she heard a commotion.
"The snow tube had really gone airborne and hit hard on the ground," says Tierney. "I could tell immediately that Jennifer wasn't breathing." She administered CPR before the 12-year-old was airlifted to a Boston hospital where she died a short time later. Through her unbelievable grief, Tierney knew what she had to do, and it was a decision that has helped her cope during many dark days.
"It was really important to her to be an organ donor," says Tierney, clearly recalling her daughter's passionate feelings that had been inspired by a local doctor's story of survival. "She had talked to me about it many times. She had talked to her father about it."
Tierney felt peace in knowing she was fulfilling Jennifer's desire when her pancreas and liver saved two lives. Additionally, her corneas were donated.
"I try to, in her honor, do a little of the good she would have done by spreading the word about organ donation," says Tierney during Eye Donor Awareness Month.
"I think it's one of those big things that we could possibly take for granted everyday. The ability to see, to see our children, to work because we have good eyesight," says Caitlyn Bernabucci of LifeChoice Donor Services, based in Windsor, a non-profit, federally designated organ and tissue recovery organization that works with 23 hospitals in western Massachusetts and Connecticut. "It's a good family discussion. You want your family to know what your wishes are, and to be on board with your wishes so that they can support your decision."
The sixth grader's mission has grown, prompting her aunt to become a living kidney donor. "The donation was actually done on Jennifer's birthday, a few years after her death," says Tierney, who believes education can dispel donation myths. She saw, firsthand, that all measures are taken by doctors to save a life. Jennifer's best friend, also seriously injured in the accident, is doing well today.
Pictures of Jennifer are all around her home, showing a smiling girl who was a voracious reader, attentive sister and enthusiastic athlete. "There were days I didn't think I would make it. I didn't think I would be here, 10 years later, smiling and talking about Jennifer," says Tierney, who focused on her faith and her daughter's rare maturity, which spared other families from the pain of losing a loved one. "That gift really does bring me comfort. I think in her short life she was still able to make a difference. She helped people."
>>To learn more about Eye Donor Awareness Month, tune into today's Fox CT Morning News. To contribute your own adventures in motherhood, or to read more from Fox CT reporter Sarah Cody and freelancer Teresa Pelham, go to http://www.ctnow.com/mommyminute.Copyright © 2015, CT Now