A Nebraska couple whose 2-year-old son tragically died at Walt Disney World almost five years ago is asking families to consider donating their children’s organs if they lose a child.
Matt and Melissa Graves created the Lane Thomas Foundation after their son was killed by an alligator in 2016. Lane Thomas was gathering sand for a sand castle on a beach outside Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa in June 2016 when an alligator grabbed him and dragged him into the lake.
Matt Graves jumped in the water but could not save his son. Lane’s body was found 16 hours later.
Matt and Melissa said they decided to focus on pediatric organ donation because they wanted to help other families fighting for their children’s lives.
“Because we know the pain of losing a child, we wanted to focus on an issue where we believe we can help prevent other parents from knowing our pain. We chose pediatric organ donation because we saw those families struggling with very limited resources to care for their children,” the couple said in a statement.
They also said that they want parents to discuss organ donation long before they face the unimaginable prospect of losing a child.
“No parent is prepared to lose a child ever. The loss is unbearable,” Matt Graves said. “Organ donation may seem like a hard choice to make. … But people who donate their child’s organs are heroes.”
Roughly 100 of the nearly 2,000 children on the national transplant waiting list die each year while waiting for an organ. Finding transplant organs for children is difficult because the pool of donors is so small.
“The real and ever-present issue the foundation is trying to address is … the donor organ availability which is markedly limited,” said University of Nebraska Medical Center Chancellor Dr. Jeffrey Gold, who serves on the foundation’s board..
“Anything that can be done to reduce time on these waiting lists for both for adults and children will be lifesaving and produce a stress relief that is immeasurable,” Gold said.