NEW ORLEANS -- Born in the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, Shawn Lawler thought 2011 was going to be her best year ever.
“Just as one got better another one of us went down,” Lawler said.
Instead it was her worst.
It began in May of last year, when her youngest son Mikey contracted a rare intestinal bacteria causing the 15-year-old to suddenly drop 60 pounds.
Two months later in July, just as Mikey started to improve. Her oldest son Anthony's truck caught fire with him inside. The 18-year-old nearly died and suffered third-degree burns, requiring multiple surgeries and skin grafts.
And just 16 days after that, with Anthony still in the hospital, the middle brother, 17-year-old Salvatore, or Salvy, left on his bike for work at the food court in Lakeside Mall.
“And at 8 o'clock I got a phone call saying that he couldn't talk and I was thinking immediately, why is he saying this?” Shawn said.
Salvy lost the feeling in his right side, and they rushed him to Children’s Hospital.
Shawn said the teenager with no medical history was bleeding uncontrollably in the absolute center of his brain. Thirteen days later the seemingly healthy, rising senior at Grace King High School was gone.
“But what happened to Salvy, we don't know,” Shawn said. “And all I can say is it was just that was his time.”
After hearing the news, Shawn turned to the nurses and said something she had never thought about before.
“I said, ‘Can we donate his organs?’ And they said sure.”
And just one hour later, the nurses returned with the news that Salvy's organ's were a perfect match for seven people sitting helplessly on a waiting list for life.
“And all of the sudden my entire body just started to shake, and I had goosebumps,” Shawn said. "All these tears that I was crying for my son turned to tears of happiness.”
Shawn said the ability to help others imparts some sort of meaning to Salvy's unexplainable death, and donating his organs to save seven lives helped her endure burying her child. She doesn't cry at Christmas. She thinks of the 8-month-old baby who spent her first Christmas at home, and not in a hospital.
“I don't grieve his death now,” Shawn said. “It’s, I don't know how to explain it. I miss my son terribly, but obviously it was God's will. There's nothing I can do about it, but I don't have that emptiness that I think I would have had, had I not had all those people.”
Shawn has heard from some of those who received Salvy's gift of life, including a letter from a Louisiana woman who says, “I will always be thankful and grateful for such an amazing gift that has changed my life.”
A gift that also changed Shawn’s.
“I stop people in stores now and tell them to donate their organs,” she said. “It's unbelievable. I feel like a one-woman campaign to try to get everybody to do this.”
A month after learning about the seven lives saved, Shawn found out two other people have regained their sight because of Salvy's eyes.
It is not the vision a mother has for a son, but there is peace in the future he donated.
As part of Eyewitness News's Perfect Match Campaign supporting Sally-Ann and Robin Roberts, we're hosting a special event Thursday.
The event will take place at the Clearview Mall parking lot from 6 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.
You can sign up to be an organ donor and have your mouth swabbed for a DNA test to be included in the bone marrow database.
Sally-Ann and Bill Capo will be there to answer your questions, and they will also broadcast live from the mall.