Tyler Laurent, Donor
Remembering The Big Smile on a Hero
Posted May 29, 2018
Gidget Laurent remembers her son’s smile. Tyler would walk into a room with a big grin on his face, and he was happy. He would flash that smile when he was proud of something, like going to college to become a mechanic or being selected as one of six in his class to work at his local Dobbs Tire & Auto Center. He also showed his smile when he brought home a new car or motorcycle, which was often according to his mother. He enjoyed car shows, buying and selling cars, and he dreamed of opening his own autobody shop one day.
His smile beamed with pride the day he asked Gidget if she had registered as an organ and tissue donor. She had, and he announced he made the same decision at his local license office that day. He was a kind-hearted, funny kid. His decision to help others made Gidget proud. “He made the choice (to be a donor),” she said. “He came home and, again, he was always smiling. He came in the door with a big smile on his face.”
Tyler was 22 and had just finished his first semester at Jefferson College when a motorcycle accident took his life. He saved four lives, donating his heart, liver, and both kidneys. He helped countless more as a tissue and cornea donor. “I knew by the expression on his face when he came in that day that he was happy,” Gidget said of the conversation she had with Tyler about his wishes to register as an organ and tissue donor. “I knew that’s what he wanted. I didn’t have to think about it. That’s what he wanted because that’s just the type of kid he was. He would do anything for anybody.”
At Tyler’s wake, Gidget was overwhelmed by the support of the community and Tyler’s friends. One of his teachers at Jefferson College told Gidget, “I have to tell you, he would have made a fantastic mechanic. He was amazing.” Later, she heard from an older couple with whom Tyler sat and talked at car shows they attended. “I had no idea he knew so many people,” Gidget said. “He was very outgoing and would talk to anyone. He made friends with everybody.”
In November 2017, Gidget met Tyler’s liver recipient. Emily Duncan had suffered from polycystic liver disease for several years before she was added to the transplant waiting list. Just five days before her transplant, she was moved up the waiting list because of her condition.
Gidget and Emily met for lunch a few days after Thanksgiving in 2017. Gidget shared stories about Tyler. Emily shared her transplant story and thanked Gidget for Tyler’s heroic decision. Gidget gave Emily a sweatshirt that said, “The greatest person I never met who saved my life is Tyler.” And Gidget noticed Emily’s smile right away. “When I see her or look at her, I think of Tyler,” she said. “I think it’s the smile. They have this big smile where their gums show. They kind of look alike. That was amazing.”
Gidget and Emily have since met to visit Tyler’s grave site. The talk regularly by phone and text. Emily also joined Gidget when she met Tyler’s heart recipient for the first time. “I’m extremely grateful and happy they’re alive,” Gidget said. “I’m thankful Tyler was able to help so many people. When I receive letters, I tend to cry, but I’m also happy that he was able to help so many people.”