One heart to share

One of Shawn Elizabeth Guillot's final pictures taken during the summer of 1991. Her high school friend Rachel found the picture.

The summer just ended and the school year has begun. Shawn Elizabeth Guillot, 15, had gotten her drivers license just weeks before. She arrived home from school and her mom, Peggy, asked her to run to the store and come right back. Shawn left and never made it back home. She got into a car accident – a head-on collision. She died.

With the Rabalais Run for Life event coming up on Oct. 5 in Baton Rouge, Don and Peggy Guillot reflect back on the things that have helped "The Shawn Elizabeth Guillot Team" participate annually in the 5k walk/run since its beginning in 2011. In the opening year, "The Shawn Elizabeth Guillot Team" won the award for being the "largest team."

The Rabalais Run for Life is an event about making people aware of organ donation. In 2012, about 28, 051 people received organ transplants, however an average of 20 people die every day waiting for transplants that can't take place because of the shortage of donated organs, according to the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (LOPA)

Back in 1991, the Guillot family is faced with a decision to donate Shawn's organs, and not knowing much about it at the time the family was split 50/50. It wasn't until realizing donating her organs is the only way "anything good can come out of tragedy."

Now, the Guillot's want the community to be aware and get involved with organ donation and stress it's better to let your family know the decision when you make it.

Twenty-two years after Shawn's death, the Guillot family finally saw her heart lay to rest. On July 17, 2013, John Putfark, of Metairie was buried. John was the recipient of Shawn Guillot's heart.

Before his death, Peggy and Don were able to meet him and his wife Lucille. It was on Valentine's Day weekend in 2004. They met him through LOPA.

When Don and Peggy met John, they were able to see and hear their daughter's heart beat after 13 years of not.

"When we met the donor, and they tell you we lived 22 extra years, that makes you feel good," Don said. "It gives meaning to an otherwise senseless death."

Don said when you lose a child it's "the hardest in life."

"It is the only thing, I mean the only thing that comes out of a tragedy that's good. Being able to help somebody."

And they did, at least Lucille thinks so. Shawn's heart gave her husband an extra 22 years of life.

Lucille said a family doctor first diagnosed her husband, John, after having several heart attacks and that he had only 18 months to live. They put him on the National register list, and she said it wasn't very long after they had found a donor that matched.

"We were going through a period of his life would be saved at the expense of someone else's life," Lucille said.

She said John got the transplant and did well with it over the years.

On the Valentine's Day meeting in 2004, Lucille remembers it being emotional for them all. Through the years, the two families have kept in touch and consider each other "good friends" – all thanks to Shawn's heart and the Grace of God.

"I hope [Shawn's heart] encourages other people to instruct their families and doctors to become donors," Lucille said. "They have to realize it might be a sacrifice, it also is giving someone else new life."

Peggy says even in death, her daughter is promoting life and there are still so many waiting for "the gift of life, mainly because people aren't aware."

"I'm glad we made the decision, because it was the right decision," Peggy said.