Paula Mann tragically lost her son, Tanner, to a car accident in May 2012.
For Paula, Tanner’s legacy lives on in a variety of ways, through visits with his friends, or remembering his huge smile and even bigger heart.
But one of the ways Tanner’s legacy lives on, Paula said, is through the gift he has given to a number of people across the state of Kentucky and across the country.
The gift of organ donation.
Tanner was an organ donor, and his organs were able to be spread to individuals in need across Kentucky and the United States. Some of Tanner’s organs went to Cave City and Louisville, some to Memphis, some to West Virginia, and some to North Carolina.
“Part of Tanner lives on through that,” Paula said. “It’s a horrible thing, but in order for this to happen, it was just a perfect storm. He was brain dead, but he had a perfect body. My son saved five lives. As horrible as it is, there are great things that come out of it.”
On Friday, one of those organ recipients was in town to see Paula and advocate for the importance of organ donation.
Greg Clifford is from Louisville, and until May 2012, Greg was receiving dialysis treatments. He was on dialysis for about 3.5 years before he got the call he had long-awaited.
On the day of the Kentucky Derby, Greg was told there was a match for the kidney he desperately needed.
“That morning, the transplant team at Jewish Hospital in Louisville called me and informed me there was a young man, Tanner Mann, who was involved in an accident and had given the gift of life,” Greg said. “At that time, I went down to Jewish Hospital and underwent the transplant of a kidney from a donor in Jamestown. It was a perfect match, blood type, size, everything was just perfect.”
About a year later, as Greg began to resume a more normal life with a fully functioning kidney, he received a letter in the mail.
It was from Paula Mann, the mother of the donor who saved Greg’s life.
“It was a really emotional day,” Greg said. “Just receiving the letter and reading through it. I went to Facebook and just tried to learn all that I could about Tanner, and connected to Paula’s daughter, Melissa, and then Paula and I started talking.”
Now, the two consider themselves close friends.
“We go camping together, we go to concerts together, we do everything,” Paula said. “I love him.”
Greg said he often thinks about Tanner and the impact he left by making the decision to become an organ donor.
“Tanner has touched a lot of people,” Greg said. “I’ve always been an organ donor, but never in a million years did I think I would be on the other end of being a recipient. Since I’ve received the gift of life, not a day goes by that I don’t think about it.”
Greg said he regularly has reminders about how his life has been impacted.
“I just happened to be at an appointment on Thursday and got to visit with the surgeon that did my transplant surgery, and as I was walking out, Tanner’s picture was displayed on the wall,” Greg said. “It still makes me emotional, nearly nine years to the day.”
For Paula, she encourages everyone to consider becoming an organ donor and consider giving the gift of life.
“You really need to sit and think about it,” Paula said. “Nobody ever plans on something happening, but you never know. If you can save someone’s life or enhance someone’s life, why not? Why not save someone’s life?”
Russell County Hospital has been raising awareness for Donate Life and organ donation throughout the month of April. On Friday, RCH staff wore blue and green in recognition of Donate Life Day and collected $343 that is being donated to the Kentucky Organ Donor Association in remembrance of Tanner Mann. To learn more about how to become an organ donor, visit www.donatelifeky.org.