"We paused, and my whole family was there and we talked and we realized this was what she wanted, and we wanted it for her," Brown says.
Had they not known Debby wanted to be a donor, she says, making a decision about her sister's body would have been a struggle, one she didn't feel prepared to make while trying to accept her sister's death. Knowing what Debby wanted made it easier for the family not only during that moment, but in the healing years that followed.
Now, more than a decade later, Brown often thinks about the people whose lives were saved because of her sister. It happens by accident. A color, a gesture, or a hairstyle — Debby was a hairstylist before she became a teacher — will make her remember. One of her fondest memories is of a trip they took to Spain after visiting relatives in Ireland. They were teenagers in high school at the time, and it was the first time they'd gone anywhere without their parents. Debby wanted to ride mopeds from Costa del Sol into Barcelona, and early into what would have been a very long trip, Debby's moped got a flat in a roundabout.
"We just ended up giggling," Brown says. "We made it back because we hadn't made it too far. That was a special trip. It was one of the most fun things we did together."
When she remembers her sister, she often can't help but think of the man who was studying to be an engineer and who received Debby's pancreas, the art teacher who has her liver, the grandmother who received her heart, or the father who has one of her kidneys. It comforts her to know that, in a way, Debby is still reaching out and touching the lives of children.
"Not only does the donation give people an opportunity for life and to carry on, but I believe (the recipients) carry the person with respect and love just like the family that lost them does," she says.
Maston, who volunteers at a cancer center in her spare time, no longer experiences the depression that plagued her immediately following her procedure. She also gained back all of her weight after the operation with the help of appetite stimulants and, she suspects, the many cakes and sundaes she ate, neither of which she enjoyed before the heart transplant.
"Now I see them and I drool," she says. She used to love seafood, but hasn't liked it very much since receiving her donor's heart. "Maybe he didn't like steamers or lobster."
Maston still thinks about her donor every day. And she still feels some pressure to do "great things" to honor his life, his heart, and his mother. She worries about what the mother would think if they were to meet — "Would she think I'm doing enough with her son's heart?" — and says everything she does is with her donor in mind.
But the expectations donor families have of the recipients, Brown explains, are not so demanding.
"To me, it's just simply taking good care of themselves and carrying on with life," she says. "That's what I would have wanted for the people who received (Debby's) organs."