"Now we're family." Neighbors describe life-saving organ transplant after 34-year-old's tragic death almost 15 years ago - East Idaho News

“Now we’re family.” Neighbors describe life-saving organ transplant after 34-year-old’s tragic death almost 15 years ago

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IDAHO FALLS – ‘GTBA’ is a four-letter acronym that Robert Parkinson lives by since his neighbors saved his life in 2010.

“My license plate on my truck says ‘GTBA,'” says Parkinson. “Good To Be Alive.”

During a flag-raising event held Tuesday at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center to celebrate Organ Donation Awareness Month, Parkinson shared his experience receiving a liver donation from his neighbor, Jeremy Rose.

Rose was involved in a tragic construction accident in Hawaii in 2010 that caused him to become brain-dead at the age of 34.

Jeremy Rose | Photo courtesy of Emily Bowcutt.

Jeremy L Rose | 1975 – 2010 | Obituary

Emily Bowcutt, Rose’s sister and a medical and surgical director at EIRMC, described her family’s harrowing and selfless journey with organ donation after the loss.

“(Jeremy) was very quiet. He was very kind, he would do anything for anybody,” said Bowcutt.

When it came time do decide what to do with Jeremy’s organs, at first the family was hesitant.

According to the family, Jeremy’s wife Kristine Howell was initially opposed to the organ donation process for her husband, hoping that he would recover.

Shortly after, the family learned that their neighbor, Parkinson, was desperately in need of a liver and was not expected to survive the week.

After understanding that Rose was not going to recover, his liver was donated on the condition it went to Parkinson, saving his life.

The organs were quickly harvested in Hawaii and sent to Salt Lake City as Parkinson and his family began the journey toward the rest of his life.

“It’s very humbling to me to have been in that position where I was going to pass away,” said Parkinson. “We’d had discussions with our family and said dad is reaching the end, and what it was going to be like to not have a dad. To think that someone in their time of tragedy would think outside of themselves at a time like that is truly, truly humbling.”

Bowcutt says Jeremy would’ve “100%” wanted to help as much as he could in donating his organs to save not one, but three total lives. Parkinson received a liver, and two Hawaiian residents received Rose’s kidneys.

“I 100% know this is what he would’ve wanted,” says Bowcutt. “Not a doubt in my mind he would want this.”

Because of her experience working in the hospital, Bowcutt says she knew no matter what they did, she was going to lose her brother. Because of the organ donation, they found meaning in their loss.

“Whether we donated Jeremy’s organs or not, our outcome would have been the same. Jeremy was still dead,” said Bowcutt. “His kids still didn’t have their dad. We were still grieving. But through donation, Jeremy’s death gained meaning.”

EIRMC organ donation family
(Left to right) Rob Parkinson, Emily Bowcutt, Kristine Howell and Rose’s parents, Hazel Rose and Kenneth Rose. | Kaitlyn Hart, EastIdahoNews.com

The experience has caused the two families to grow closer, Parkinson describing his neighbors now as family.

“We were more acquaintances before, and now we’re family,” says Parkinson. “I just want to express appreciation for the gift of life. There’s a lot of people involved, a lot of medical people involved, there’s the donor family involved, and they’re the real heroes of these stories. I’m just grateful.”

Parkinson now has 24 grandchildren that he gets to watch grow up because of the love and sacrifice of Rose and his family.

“I asked a transplant coordinator once, I said, ‘How do you repay a gift like that? It seems impossible. I can’t do it,'” says Parkinson. “She said you basically pay it forward for the rest of your life. I’m not very good at it, but I’m making attempts to pay it forward for the beautiful gift these people have given me.”

According to the Health Resources & Services Administration, 17 people die nationally every day as they wait for an organ transplant.

In 2023, 27 EIRMC patients and their families donated their organs to someone in need.

The hospital is working with Donor Connect to dispel misconceptions about organ donation and make sure more patients can access live-saving organs.

“We’re a non-profit government regulated agency,” says Rob Stoback with Donor Connect. “We work with the local hospitals to have them identify perspective donors for us, and then we start to get into medical records to understand the overall potential of those organs.”

Kristi Caldera, director of Critical Care at EIRMC says it’s important to talk to your loved ones and tell them your wishes for if you were to experience an untimely death.

“It’s important to let your loved ones know your wishes related to organ donation as well,” says Caldera. “In the event that you become an organ donor, it will bring them peace to know that this is what you wanted.”

The easiest way to choose organ donation in Idaho is to indicate your preference on your driver’s license or state ID card or through yesidaho.org.