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.
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.
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.”
Tammy said the connection with the donor recipients has also been a blessing to their family.
“I can't imagine losing a child and not having contact with the donor recipient families, because to me, part of her is still alive,” she said.
Still today, when Dylon Holmes, 19, comes over to the Westermiers' house, Tammy sees her daughter.
Joy and sorrow
Dylon, then 9, lay in the hospital bed, a cold Dr Pepper in one hand and a bean burrito in the other.
These weren't on the menu at The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center.
Holmes had craved both but hadn't been able to enjoy either. The body of the child from Sand Springs couldn't handle them. That is, not until he received Mandy's kidney.
Greg and Tammy walked into the room as Dylon bit into the burrito.
The couple carried not only pictures of Mandy, but award buckles she had won at rodeos.
Joy was about to meet indescribable sorrow.
The best day of his life was the worst of theirs. But each understood the other.
Dylon thinks he was between 2 and 3 years old when he received a kidney from his father. That lifesaving step worked for a few years. Problems later developed.
Dylon said he'd been receiving dialysis treatment for 41/2 years when his mother was notified in late April 2003 of a donor.
Tammy watched the child down the Dr Pepper and she laughed.
“That's the first time I'd laughed in days,” she said.
There's been plenty of laughter shared between the Westermiers and Dylon since.
Over the years, Dylon has spent time with the Westermiers now and then, riding horses or just hanging out with their son, Cody.
Dylon also has been to the family's home for Thanksgiving.
“That's really something, that he's been with us for Thanksgiving, because we know what he's truly thankful for and it's a kidney from our daughter,” Greg said. “Even as a young child he knew what he had gotten and he's never forgotten it, and he's kind of been close to our heart because of that.
“We've just enjoyed continuing that relationship and watching him grow up.”
Dylon said he's had a “couple of ups and downs” since receiving Mandy's kidney but now “I am better than I ever have been.”
Mandy kept a journal titled, “It's a God Thing.” In it next to “Goals after high school,” she wrote, “I want to go to college because I want to become a doctor.”
That opportunity didn't come for her.
Dylon is a high school senior this year and recently has been assisting at a volunteer fire department. Although his goal isn't to become a doctor, some of the desires are similar.
“I want to become a paramedic,” Dylon said. “I've been in hospitals all my life and that's kind of my environment.”
Dylon said he not only appreciates the decision Greg and Tammy made, but also, “the people they are.”
“They are incredible people and I heard Mandy was the same way,” Dylon said. “She'd do anything to help somebody. They've told me many times they did it because that's what they thought she would want to do.
“I'd give my life to them any day.”