Organ donation helps Utah couple through dark times after death of 5-month-old son

OREM, Utah -- A young Orem couple had no idea how organ donation would end up helping them through a dark time after the loss of their 5-month-old child helped save the lives of others.

Nikki and Brett Michaelis are seeing the Celebration of Life Monument in Salt Lake City for the first time with one of their seven children.

“We named him Max because we reached our Max with seven kids,” Nikki Michaelis said.

This monument honors organ donors, and Brett and Nikki's emotions come to the surface when they find Maximus' name etched on the wall. At just 5-months-old, Maximus saved many other lives.

“Instead of going on a date we went to the emergency room, they immediately Life-Flighted us to Primary Childrens [Hospital]," Nikki Michaelis said.

Maximus died of sudden infant death syndrome.

“In the hospital, Nicole and I both were in agreement we would, if it came to that, we would definitely donate whatever we could from Max's organs,” Brett Michaelis said.

Shortly after Max’s death, Brett and Nikki heard about a story Fox 13 did on Truc Tran, a young University of Utah college student who received one of Max's kidneys.

“I feel like there's no road blocks in the way now, and so I feel like I can do a lot more than I ever could," Truc Tran said of life after the operation. “I'm just grateful to have this opportunity."

Nikki reached out to Truc to see if she wanted to meet.

“She responded to our message, and we've met Truc since then, and she's been to the house and met the rest of our children,” Brett Michaelis said. “It's been good.”

The Michelis' have heard from others whose lives were saved because of their baby, and while it's helpful, nothing can take away the pain of losing their son.

“It’s been a hard experience for us,” Brett Michaelis said. “Organ donation has been certainly a bright spot in a dark, difficult year for us.”

If you want to become an organ donor, just say yes on your driver’s license or state ID card. Visit YesUtah.org to sign up or to learn more.