Families Linked by Organ Donation Meet for First Time

Families encourage others to register to donate organs during National Donate Life Month

Two families linked by a kidney transplant met Tuesday to encourage others to register to donate.

Cook Children's Medical Center held the reunion for the 3-year-old recipient, his family and his donor's family.

Three-year-old William Spiekerman, of Keller, wasn't crawling or even moving until he received one of 22-year-old Ashlie Wright's kidneys.

William had in-stage renal disease from injuries sustained at birth. Receiving one of Wright's kidneys has made all the difference in his life, as he was up and running around just two weeks after the transplant.

Now he is as energetic as any other 3-year-old.

"William, where's your Ashlie?" Katie Spiekerman asked her son.

"Ashlie," William responded with a pat to his side.

Wright, of Paradise, died following a brain aneurysm, but gave life in return to William and 72 others across the country by donating her organs and tissues.

"So knowing that other people are living, that makes a difference. That makes a big difference," said her mother, Wendy Vann.

Wright left behind a husband, her parents and 5-month-old Brenlie, but she lives on in people such as William.

"Out of that whole tragedy, there is a triumph that happens when two families come together to make something really right out of something that was really hard," Spiekerman said.

The families first met Tuesday, nearly 18 months after the donations, to mark the start of National Donate Life Month and encourage others to register to donate.

Only 3.5 million Texans are currently enrolled to donate tissues and organs through the Donate Life Texas Registry.

"If you've done nothing else in your life right, if the last thing you do is change the lives of 73 people, that's pretty good," Spiekerman said.

"It's the ultimate gift for anyone," Vann said.

Vann said she knows her daughter lives on in William and so many others.

"Ashlie found a home, and she's happy," she said.

The Spiekermans and the Vanns plan on staying in touch, saying their families are forever connected.

According to Cook Children's, the lives of 75 people are saved through organ donation across the country every day. However, 18 people die every day because of the lack of organ transplant availability.

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