Parker Lang, a young Bothell resident, had a life-changing potential.
“[He had] a lovely smile and a warm heart,” said Parker’s mother, Vicki Moore in a 2017 interview.
Lang, a 2015 Jackson High School graduate, would have turned 21 this year, likely finishing his online college classes, still striving to become a doctor like his older brother and working at Mud Bay, a pet supply store in Mill Creek.
On March 9, 2016, Lang stayed late at Mud Bay to help a customer and as he was walking home along Bothell-Everett Highway, a car struck him. The driver had not seen him cross the street in the dark and in the rain. Lang sustained severe head trauma and was rushed to Providence Hospital in Everett, where Moore works as a radiology supervisor.
Lang died two days later, but he held on to his potential. About six months earlier, he had applied for his first driver’s license in order to start working at Mud Bay, and became an organ and tissue donor.
“We were standing there [at the Department of Licensing, and the guy is really nice behind the counter,” Moore said. “But he starts directing his question towards Parker and I’m looking at this guy thinking, ‘Hello, I’m the mom. I should be answering these questions.’ But I had this epiphany. Parker is 18 now and Parker should be answering these questions.”
At that point, Lang was asked if he wanted to be a donor.
“Parker looked down at me and I looked back up at him and we both simultaneously shook our heads, yes, absolutely without a doubt, Parker had no concerns about this whatsoever,” Moore said. ”Little did I know — how would you? — that just a few months later, I would be here at my hospital confirming that decision in the emergency room.”
Today, Lang has saved and enhanced the lives of nearly 30 people after donating his corneas, heart, liver, lungs, one kidney and various tissues. While his organs have the potential to go on and help a single person each, Lang’s tissues made the widest impact.
“Organ donation usually gets all the attention because it’s one of the most life-saving things someone can donate,” said Doug Wilson, executive vice president of LifeNet Health. “They’re both selfless acts that can save a lot of people. One tissue donation can help more than 100 different people.”
LifeNet Health is a nonprofit that provides organ donation and tissue banking services and is the world’s largest provider of allograft bio-implants and organs for transplantation, according to their mission statement. Wilson oversees the functions in nearly every department of the organization.
A variety of tissues can be donated and preserved for one to five years, including bone, tendon, cartilage, vein and spinal tissues, Wilson said. Organs, while usually more life-saving, can only go to one person and have a limited window to be transported and used in surgery — often only a few hours.
According to Wilson, tissue donations can save the lives of burn victims, pregnant mothers who need a new heart valve, people with spinal injuries who require spinal fusion and people who have been injured through sports and tear vital ligaments.
“Sports medicine injuries are common,” Wilson said. “For people who injure their ACL, tissue donations are especially valuable because they don’t have to take a tendon from their other knee and open a second surgery site.”
Moore has not been able to learn much about how many tissue recipients her son helped. But more than a year after his death, she received a letter from a young man in California who tore his ACL playing football.
“Just when [I] think the dust has settled around this stuff, [I] start getting feedback about how the tissue donation has saved people’s lives,” Moore said. “At the time I was still kind of ignorant around what tissue was donated…I didn’t realize the ACL in the knee could be used.”
The 18-year-old recipient and his mother wrote a “delightful” letter thanking Moore for allowing Lang to donate ACL tissue and changing the teen’s life forever. According to Moore, the young man is now playing Army League football and would have gone down a darker path without Lang’s tissue.
“Parker’s death has touched the lives of close to 30 people and has allowed them to live on and that just makes me immensely proud,” Moore said. “You’ve got to know that.”
Moore said she was previously a supporter of organ and tissue donation, and this experience has made her bigger advocate for it.
Wilson added that millions of people benefit from tissue donation each year and they are commonly used in just about every hospital in the United States.
“It’s one of the most selfless decisions someone can make,” Wilson said. “I have seen and witnessed many families take solace in the fact that their loved ones go on to help people years later.”
The positive impacts of organ and tissue donations are important to talk about because some people fear the idea, according to Moore. She said that some people may fear that if they sign up as an organ donor, then their life won’t be saved in a crisis and they’ll be left to die so their organs can be harvested.
“That’s absolutely not true,” Moore said. “I worked at Harborview in trauma for the first 10 years of my career. I work here now at a level two trauma hospital and it’s simply not true. The health care teams do everything in their power to save a patient.”
Moore added that some people may not know how far their donation can go and that’s why it’s important to educate people on the immense positive impact that anyone can make.
“Get rid of the fear and the ignorance…it’s your very last opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life,” Moore said. “I think Parker is very proud that he’s able to help all these people. It makes my heart warm right now just thinking about it, I know he’s laughing.”