by The Corea Family (Liver Recipient)
At the age of 11, Mike Corea was faced with his own mortality: he was told he would need a liver transplant to survive.
“When he was placed on the transplant list, his whole life changed,” said his mother, Lynda. “He made priorities and short-term goals and even wrote out his will twice!” Mike was born with a rare liver disease and his family was told on different occasions that his chances of survival were slim. But Mike beat the odds and lived a normal childhood for 11 years, until his condition progressed and he was placed on the national transplant waiting list. He waited more than two years on the list, hoping for a second chance at life.
In February 1997, after three weeks of hospitalization due to his disease, Mike’s family pleaded with doctors to let him return home to be in his own bed as he waited for his transplant. After a week of coaxing, doctors discharged Mike on February 26 and he couldn’t have been happier. “He said to me, ‘make sure we don’t come back until I get my transplant,’” said Lynda.
As Lynda started dinner that evening and Mike retreated to his room, the phone rang: a liver was available for Mike. Overwhelmed by emotion, Mike told his mother, “No thank you, I’ll wait for the next one.” Knowing there may not be another chance; Lynda spoke with Mike, who refused to budge. He told his mother he was going into his closet to think and would come out when he was ready.
Two hours later, Mike emerged, transformed. “I’m ready for this transplant and have come to terms with death,” he said. “I am no longer afraid. I would like to eat and play video games before we go.”
“I have no idea what happened in that closet,” laughs Lynda, “But for the rest of his life, that calm was a part of him.”
Mike’s transplant was a great success and gave him a second chance at life, which he was determined to live to the fullest. He ran track in high school, not caring that he came in last every time. He graduated with honors and attended the only school he would consider – The Ohio State University. A finance major, Mike planned to attend law school “to clean up the world.”
Mike also indulged his adventurous side, telling his mother, “I’m not afraid to die and I’m not afraid to live,” as he revealed plans to go skydiving and cliff jumping.
During his junior year of college, Mike decided to buy the only thing he ever really wanted – a motorcycle. It was a crotch rocket – a Suzuki 600. “He never asked for much and we knew how much he wanted a bike,” said Lynda. “He wanted to make sure his Dad and I were on board. We knew he would be safe and responsible.”
Mike was a safe rider. He took training courses and always wore his helmet. To Mike, his bike was his freedom – when he was riding he had no worries, no thoughts about school or his medication. He once told his family, “When I die, I hope I die on my bike, because I’ll die happy.”
On June 5, 2006, Mike took his last final exam before graduation. He called his mom, ecstatic, telling her, “I haven’t felt this good in a long time. I’m going to go home, eat some of your meatballs and ride my bike!”
A few hours later, Lynda received another call to inform her that Mike had been in an accident while riding his bike. Mike was wearing his helmet at the time, and was not at fault. He was hit by a car less than a mile from campus.
By the time the Corea family arrived at the hospital, Mike was on a ventilator and his brain function was deteriorating. Lynda knew what that meant and thought back to the day of his transplant when he told her, “If I die, you tell them to take anything they want so others can live.”
As Mike’s condition worsened, the family contacted The Ohio State University to obtain his diploma. Mike’s sister, Jessica, read it at his bedside before he died.
After his death, Mike accomplished something very rare. He was both a transplant recipient and an organ donor. “This was something that was very important to him,” said Lynda. “We wanted to fulfill his wish to donate.”
Mike’s heart, lungs and tissues were donated to save lives and Lynda says the donation brought joy and peace to the Corea family in the midst of tragedy.
Lynda says the family has no regrets about Mike riding a motorcycle. “He was so happy and we support that. He rode as much as he could. It was just an accident and he went the happiest way he could go.”
The Corea family has corresponded with one of Mike’s organ recipients: Barbara, a 64-year-old mother of four and grandmother to 12. Barbara received Mike’s lungs after three years of waiting.
Barbara shares her gratitude with the Corea family by writing letters about her life. Lynda’s favorite letter from Barbara shares a special connection to Michael.
Lynda recalls, “She said she was able to do things she had never done before. She mentioned that her grandson had a motorcycle and for years she wouldn’t even look at it, let alone ride it. After the transplant, her son asked her to go for a ride. She wrote to us and said, ‘It must have been Mike’s spirit which made me say yes. I went and enjoyed it so much; I can’t wait to go again!’” Lynda tells this story with much happiness, as she knows Mike is living on through others.
The Corea family does anything they can to honor Mike and celebrate his life while furthering the cause of organ and tissue donation. The family recently established the “Michael Allen Corea Scholarship Fund” at The Ohio State University. The scholarship is available to organ transplant recipients or donor family members. The first scholarship will be awarded Fall 2009.Leave a Comment »