For Gus Hansen, signing a donor consent form was a pragmatic decision. He was merely respecting his son's wish.
Like his father, 21-year-old Brad Hansen had designated on his driver's license that he wished to be an organ donor, and dad and son had discussed it on occasion. They both thought it was a good idea."His feeling was that if he, or I, weren't going to use the organs, someone else should be able to," said the father, who tearfully reminisced about his strapping, handsome son who was killed 11/2 years ago in a freak bicycle accident.
The 6-foot-2-inch University of Utah athlete had been biking in the mountains and was returning home, via South Temple. The mountain bike hit a rut in the road, and the vehicle flipped. Brad, whose head hit the hard pavement, never regained consciousness.
Unfortunately, Brad, who was traveling fast down the Salt Lake City street, was not wearing a helmet, which could have saved his life.
When the police found the man, his lifeless body was still straddling the bicycle.
Brad was taken to the University Hospital where he remained in intensive care for two days.
"From the beginning, doctors told us it was grim prognosis. They gave us very little hope," said Hansen, who recalled the last hours with his only child, who never opened his eyes or spoke again.
Yet he looked like the same youth, who lived life to the fullest.
The only signs of the tragic accident were a bruise on the side of Brad's head, and his eye was swollen shut.
However, because of the blow to his head, his brain had impacted and rebounded from inside the skull, and had caused swelling.
Knowing his son wouldn't survive, the courageous father asked physicians to withhold any medication that could destroy Brad's organs, making them unusable for transplantation.
"I knew if he wasn't going to be able to use them, he would want someone else to," Hansen said. "I just respected his decision."
When Brad was declared brain-dead, his father signed a consent form donating his son's liver, kidneys, heart, corneas, bone and cartilage. The organs have since saved four lives and given another individual sight.
Hansen found some comfort when he met a recipient of one of Brad's live-saving kidneys.
"He was a fine young man, about Brad's age and he seemed healthy," Hansen said. "I am sure Brad would have selected him if there had been a line-up of people.
"I think Brad would have said, `I would like him to have this kidney.' "
It was 20 years ago that Hansen, owner of Sum Plastics, signed up to become an organ donor. His plea to other adults is to also make preparations to donate, and encourage their children to do so. He also wishes religious groups would take a more active role in promoting organ donations.
"It's the only rational conclusion a rational person can come to," he said. "If people can no longer use their organs, they should be used to give someone else a good life.
"It's an absolute tragedy that people die waiting for organs."