Brady Smith spent the last conscious seconds of his life laughing with his friends. In the moments before he suffered a debilitating brain aneurysm on June 19, 2010, he remarked “I’ve never laughed this hard in my life.”
Smith was just 30 years old when he died on July 4, after two weeks in the hospital ICU.
“He died at dusk as the fireworks began lighting up the sky,” said Smith’s mother Carol Anne Cullum. “The Fourth of July was Brady’s favorite holiday.”
Smith was passionate about life and a selfless person. His unexpected death was a shock to his mother, father, and older sisters, along with his community, who filed into his celebration of life with standing room only, a nod to the person who never met a stranger.
His selfless nature was a legacy that carried on after his tragic passing. Because he was a registered organ donor, ARORA, Arkansas’ largest organ recovery organization, was able to coordinate the donation of all eight of Smith’s recoverable organs, both of his corneas, and other tissue for transplantation.
“I think of the eight people whose lives my son’s donation saved and the two people who had their sight restored because of his donation,” said Cullum. “You can hardly imagine the impact of restored sight and life. It’s further proof that comfort can be found in the greatest of tragedies.”
Growing up, Smith was already a generous and loved person. His mom recalls one Easter when, despite facing financial challenges from single-motherhood, she scraped up enough money to buy Brady and his sisters new Easter outfits.
“After picking out the clothes, Brady sobbed all the way to the checkout. When I pressed him as to what was wrong, thinking it wasn’t like him to be unhappy with what we’d chosen, he finally said ‘no mama, you never buy you anything, so please please don’t buy me anything either,’” said Cullum. “And it is that unselfish nature that brings us to why [he was a donor].”
When they realized he wasn’t going to live after the aneurysm, his mother already knew he was registered as an organ and tissue donor, and supported his decision.
“Because my son loved people, the decision to donate his organs, corneas and tissue was a difficult one that was easy to make,” she said. “I felt that in some way, my amazing and vibrant son could live on, and that perhaps a recipient family, maybe someone else’s mother, could avoid heartache and despair on the other end of the spectrum.”
ARORA is celebrating National Donate Life Month across the state in April, honoring those who have restored lives through the generous gift of donation and also encouraging individuals to consider registering to become organ, tissue and eye donors.
“Registering to become a donor is simple, and it’s the gift of a lifetime,” said Mark Tudor, president and CEO of ARORA. “It gives hope to the more than 100,000 Americans, including more than 300 Arkansans, who are waiting on life-saving transplants.”
Arkansans can register to become an organ and tissue donor when renewing their driver’s license at their local DMV office or visit https://www.arora.org/donatelife/ to register online. Residents can also log onto the ARORA website at www.arora.org/kiosk to locate a donor registration kiosk where they can register in a matter of seconds with the swipe of their driver’s license or state ID card.