Mother says daughter’s legacy lives on through organ donation

SALT LAKE CITY -- Dawn Christensen’s 9-year-old daughter was killed in a sledding accident in 2009, and she says saying yes to organ donation has helped her family heal.

Patia Christensen was the younger of two children, and her mother describes her as a bright light.

“She was just a sweetheart—the clearest most beautiful blue eyes you've ever seen—so friendly, a little bit shy, but she was the peacemaker among her friends,” Christensen said.

But tragedy hit in January of 2009. Patia was sledding with her family when she collided with a snowmobile.

The accident resulted in head trauma and doctors said Patia wouldn’t wake up. That's when Dawn and her husband had to decide if their daughter would be an organ donor.

“We just both knew,” she said. “We were actually in the ICU, and so many sick children, and we both said—before the doctors came in to tell us for sure if this truly was the diagnosis—we wanted her to be a donor.”

Helping others live helped Dawn and her husband heal. Today they have a relationship with one of the people Patia saved.

“Since then, we meet and we do a memorial run in Patia's name every year, and she comes out and with the family runs with us every year,” Christensen said.

The Christensens also attend the Transplant Games, where organ recipients and donor families come together and compete.

“I think for any parent that loses a child, the most important thing is people know they were here and that their impact is still felt because we love them so much,” Christensen said. “I know she would’ve gone on. Her legacy through us is making an impact in the world.”

This year the Transplant Games will open in Salt Lake City on August 2 at Smith's Ballpark. You can learn more about the event here.

To become an organ donor in Utah, you just need to say “yes” on your driver’s license or state ID card. You can also learn more or sign up by clicking here.

It’s also a good idea to let your family know of your decision so your wishes can be carried out.