In early January 2019, 23-year-old Lucy Reff was about to start her final semester at Upstate Medical University, where she was training as a respiratory therapist. She was looking forward to several exciting milestones ahead. She was engaged to her long-time boyfriend, Skyler, and they were in the midst of planning their wedding. She had just chosen her wedding dress.
On January 8, 2019, Lucy was released early from a clinical rotation due to a severe headache and nausea. Overnight, her discomfort increased and she went to the emergency room the next morning for what she thought was a migraine. She received medication for the pain, and no tests were ordered. By the time her medical team discovered she wasn’t responding to treatment, it was too late. An undiagnosed colloid cyst had resulted in irreparable brain damage, and doctors told Lucy’s family she was progressing toward brain death. Lucy’s mother Laura recalled,
During that long night, I was in shock and disbelief. She had worked so hard and was such a good person. It seemed so unfair.
As Lucy continued to decline and brain death was imminent, Laura’s thoughts turned to organ donation. Lucy’s father, brother, and fiancé all agreed that it was what she would want. The family was told the possibility of donation would depend on how her organs responded over the next 24 hours, and they gladly agreed to treatment that would improve Lucy’s chances of becoming a donor.
Lucy passed away on January 12, 2019, and became an organ donor three days later. Just prior to surgery at 2:50 am on January 15, 2019, Lucy was escorted to the elevator through one of the hospital’s first honor walks. At 9:00 am, the family had learned that Lucy was able to donate her heart, liver, and both kidneys, saving the lives of four people.
Lucy’s family since connected with two of her recipients. Through their communications with Rick, who received one of Lucy’s kidneys, they found out he was awaiting the birth of his first granddaughter. They discovered that Lucy’s heart went to a woman named Alin, a doctor who had just relocated to New York City when she almost died due to sudden heart failure. The family was thrilled to know that Lucy’s medical aspirations lived on through Alin.
Lucy’s loved ones have become passionate advocates for organ donation. They speak at local schools, host donor drives, and keep Lucy’s memory alive through social media, news outlets, and radio shows. Laura says,
I still miss Lucy every minute of every day, but being able to talk about her helps me to know there is a purpose for her life and she will never be forgotten. All the people we have met in the last 2 years has been like meeting the most wonderful people you wish you’d never known. I’m just thankful that through our loss, Lucy was able to help others, because that’s what she would have wanted and she will continue to live on.