Out of death, life
Organ donation and grateful recipients are silver lining to her brother’s death
Bailey Simons says her brother, Brady, “was the biggest tease in the whole world.”
“He was a leader, a friend, a brother, but most of all a hero to many,” she wrote recently in a post on the Utah Lion’s Eye Bank Facebook and Instagram pages.
When he died on Nov. 21, 2013 at age 19 following an auto accident, “it was really, really hard,” she said recently in an interview.
Bailey was a Manti High School sophomore at the time. She had never had a death in her family, not even grandparents or extended relatives.
Brady ended up donating two kidneys, a liver, a pancreas, a lung and both corneas.
And when, a couple of months after the accident, letters arrived from two recipients of Brady’s organs, it changed everything, Bailey says.
“I felt connected (to the recipients),” she says. “I have found more peace and more joy in the outcome.”
A couple years ago, she competed in the Miss Manti Pageant and was named one of the attendants. In the past year, she competed in the regional Miss Heart of Utah Pageant and won. She is now preparing for the Miss Utah Pageant in June. In all of these roles, her platform has been organ and tissue donation.
At the time of his death, Brady Simons had graduated from Manti High and was working on a ranch in the Gunnison Valley.
“He loved…rounding up cows and living the cowboy life,” his sister wrote in one of the Facebook and Instagram posts designed to help promote donation of corneas. “He rode horses, bailed hay, changed sprinklers and loved the life he had.”
Brady was on his way from Manti to work on Nov. 18, 2013, a Monday, when a car collided with a deer carcass in the middle of U.S. 89. That collision thrust the car into Brady’s lane. The two vehicles collided head-on. In the end, both drivers died.
Brady’s father, David Simons, was also on his way to work in the Gunnison Valley that morning. He happened to come upon the accident. He identified his son, called his wife, Allison, and after Brady was Life-Flighted drove directly to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.
Allison Simons went to Manti High to pull her two daughters, Bailey and Abby (a junior at the time) out of school and take them with her to the hospital.
“I was scared,” Bailey recalls. “I didn’t know what had happened or who it had happened to.”
That day and the next few days were a blur, she says. “One day you’re the person you thought you were,” she wrote in the Facebook/Instagram post, “and the next your world has flipped upside down and is spinning the other way.”
By Thursday, doctors had told the Simons family that Brady was brain dead. When Brady had gotten his driver’s license at 16, he had signed up to be an organ donor. Doctors asked the Simons for permission to take any usable organs.
The family agreed. The fact Brady had made his own wishes clear when he signed up as an organ donor made the decision easier, Bailey says.
It took a couple of days for testing and removal of the organs to be complete. The funeral was held the next Tuesday, a week and a day after the accident.
Bailey said the extra days gave her time to adjust. “It worked out just right,” she says. “I felt like the funeral wasn’t too fast or too late.”
In December, the month after Brady’s death, the Bailey family received a seven-page letter from a woman living out of state who had received one of his kidneys.
“She talked about how she had been on dialysis,” Bailey says. “She’d had a call before, but it didn’t work out. The timing was perfect for her.”
In her letter, the recipient talked about how she liked to make pottery and go on walks with her dog. She also mentioned that she had two cats.
“She was a real person,” Bailey says. “It hit me really hard. Brady had definitely saved people’s lives.”
The family received a two-line note from a man in Utah who had received Brady’s other kidney and a lung. The gist was simply, “Thank you so much. These organs saved my life.”
The Simons family wrote their own letters to organ recipients they didn’t hear from, letting them know a little about Brady. Transplant workers let the Simons know that recipients of the liver, pancreas and each of Brady’s corneas had accepted the letters, although the recipients chose not to write back.
On March 14, 2014, on what would have been Brady’s 20th birthday, several of his friends went into the Utah Driver’s License Division and, in Brady’s honor, signed up to be organ donors.
During March, as part of her scholarship-pageant platform service, Bailey took charge of the Utah Lion’s Eye Bank Facebook and Instagram pages. The Lions Clubs in Utah sponsors a repository for donated corneas.
In response to some of her posts, she heard from a person who had received a cornea, although not from Brady. “It is such an amazing opportunity to be given the gift of sight,” the recipient wrote. “…I thank you and all donor families, and acknowledge the magnitude of this ultimate gift.”
Whenever Bailey makes appearances as Miss Heart of Utah, she works into her presentation some education about organ and tissue donation.
She did so recently when she was mistress of ceremonies at Coal Days in Price. She also talked to a senior English class at Manti High.
“I talk about how important it is to know about it, just to be educated about how it works,” she says. “I talk about how many people die waiting for organ donations. Thousands of lives could be saved if people signed up to be donors.”
One of the biggest reasons to support organ donation, she says, is that you yourself could end up on a waiting list. “You’re six times more likely to need an organ than to donate an organ,” she says.
“We can’t see the future,” she adds. “There are car crashes, brain aneurisms. These things can happen at any time to any of us. If we’ve signed up to be a donor, we can be in a position to give life-saving organs to others.”