Just one day before tragedy struck, 19-year-old Rebekah Reynolds called her mother and best friend Regina Henthorne. She told Henthorne that she wanted to move from Monticello to Little Rock to live with her, find a job, and pursue her dream of becoming a hair and makeup artist by enrolling in cosmetology school in Central Arkansas.
The next day, on June 24, 2021, Rebekah was a victim of domestic gun violence. In the hospital, the doctors informed Henthorne that her daughter had a 5% chance of survival before Rebekah was placed in a medical coma.
On June 28, Rebekah passed away. In her passing, Rebekah was able to donate her liver, kidneys, and heart valves to save five lives.
“I’m super proud of what she did. In my eyes, Rebekah is a hero,” said Henthorne. “I knew she wanted to be an organ donor and she made the decision on her own when she was 18.”
Henthorne recalls the day Rebekah told her that she wanted to become a registered organ donor. The pair were driving and Henthorne remembers how excited Rebekah was to update her adult license and register her decision to become an organ donor.
“She was excited for the opportunity to give back. She wanted to give back to someone in need,” Henthorne said. “When she told me, I was thinking about her being able to save lives years from then.”
While at the hospital, Henthorne met with ARORA, the nonprofit responsible for recovering organs and tissues for life-saving transplants in Arkansas. The ARORA team came to speak with Henthorne several times about the organ recovery process and provided information and resources to support her in her time of grief.
“Every ARORA person that we had contact with was amazing,” Henthorne said. “They treated Rebekah with dignity and respected her and us in what we were tragically going through.”
Henthorne admits that her own recovery process has been tough.
“We had a special bond between mother and daughter. It’s been a really hard road for me,” she said.
Not only did Rebekah’s generosity save five lives, her eyes and tissue were also able to be recovered for life-enhancing transplants. Henthorne was told that two men of Rebekah’s same age and an older gentleman were able to receive life-saving transplants due to Rebekah’s generosity in registering as an organ donor.
“I am consumed with grief, but knowing she left this world doing what she loved–helping others, does help me,” Henthorne said.
For those that knew her, it makes sense that Rebekah is still impacting others, even after her death. Rebekah was a loving and kind person, who found beauty in everything, according to her mother. Henthorne recalls driving down the road one day looking at what most people would call “weeds.” Instead of calling them “weeds,” Rebekah would talk about how beautiful the “flowers” were.
“She lived big dreams and she was determined to make those dreams come true,” Henthorne said. “Five people wouldn’t be alive without my daughter’s donation.”
To anyone considering registering as an organ and tissue donor, Henthorne suggests doing research and then registering your decision.
“If you’re considering it, you need to go ahead and do it. Do your research if it’s gonna take that to make your decision,” she said. “Look at it as if you or your loved one needed an organ to survive.”
One organ donor can save up to eight lives, as there are eight transplantable organs. And one tissue donor can impact 100 or more lives by helping to restore mobility, ability and freedom from pain.
“Registering to become a donor is simple, and it’s the gift of a lifetime,” said Mark Tudor, president and chief executive officer 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. However, a trip to the DMV doesn’t happen every day, so ARORA offers two other convenient registration options. Arkansans can log onto https://www.arora.org/donatelife/ to register online. Or, they can log onto the ARORA website at www.arora.org/kiosk to locate a donor registration kiosk where they can also register in a matter of seconds.
To learn more about ARORA and organ and tissue donation, go to www.arora.org or follow ARORA on Facebook at Donate Life Arkansas, Instagram @donatelifearkansas, TikTok and Twitter @donatelifeAR.