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Parents' tough decision helped others live

Mandy Westermier, a Wellston High School freshman, died in 2003, after an accident at the Heart of Oklahoma Youth Rodeo. Since then her parents, Greg and Tammy Westermier, of Luther, have watched as her organ and tissue donations have helped extend the lives of others.
by Bryan Painter Published: October 13, 2013

Greg Westermier watched the monitor as his daughter Mandy's heart stopped beating — more than six-and-a-half years after her funeral.

On April 19, 2003, Mandy was competing in the Heart of Oklahoma Youth Rodeo in Harrah.

The 14-year-old was knocked off her horse when another horse and rider exiting the arena collided with her, said Mandy's mother Tammy, who was there when the accident occurred.

She was flown to OU Medical Trauma Center and had surgery to try to relieve pressure caused from swelling on her brain. A second surgery was performed with no success. Mandy was in the hospital six days.

Amanda Jo Westermier, a Wellston High School freshman, died April 25, 2003. But her heart and other organs did not.

In the time between the accident and Mandy's death, Greg and Tammy Westermier, of Luther, made several tough decisions.

One in particular was that their daughter would be an organ donor.

With that decision, Mandy was able to help six people through organ donation, as well as countless others through bone and tissue donation.

Greg and Tammy met several of the recipients.

Among those was Diana Harris, then 52, of Ardmore, who received the teen's heart.

The call

They met Diana — even before Mandy's funeral — and developed a relationship.

Then on Dec. 14, 2009, they received a call from Diana's husband, Curtis.

Tammy, who was at home, arrived at Integris Baptist Medical Center first. She went in and saw Diana and then stepped out. Greg, an Edmond firefighter, arrived a few minutes later and hurried to Diana's bedside.

“Literally, I was there for less than five minutes and nearly seven years later, I see Amanda's heart stop beating and go to a flat line,” Greg said. “It was almost like Diana had waited for that particular moment for us to be there.”

One time Diana had told the couple that she'd prayed for a heart, but until she met them, she really didn't know what she was praying for.

“Diana said, ‘I'm sorry,'” Greg said. “But the way I've always thought about it is ‘What is the point in wasting that?' If it's not going to do any good for Amanda any more, what's the point in wasting that life?

“Diana was a great lady.”

In the last few years, Greg has served on the advisory board of LifeShare Transplant Donor Services of Oklahoma as a representative of a donor family.

“Diana was a lot of fun and for her to get those extra years out of her life and to be able to enjoy those years was very good,” Greg said.

Living on

The relationship with some of the donor recipients has helped the Westermiers.

“The pain never goes away,” Tammy said. “You just learn to deal with it. It's always there, you adapt to it.”

Mandy had a younger brother, Cody. And since her death, the Westermiers added two family members. Tierney and Tyler are both 7.

“After she passed away we wanted to have another child and we were blessed with twins,” Greg said. “They're growing and we've watched them get involved in school and sports and all of those things and that is kind of an inspiration for us.”

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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