1-year-old organ donor saves dozens of children’s lives
HENDERSON, Ky. (Gray News) - A man who lost his wife and 1-year-old son after a car accident in Kentucky last week is clinging to hope as his son’s organs are saving the lives of dozens of children.
According to Kentucky State Police, Braelen Hicks-Schaefer, 24, of Spottsville, Kentucky, was driving and crossed the center line, hitting another car head-on.
Tony Reutter, who was driving the other vehicle, was taken to the hospital for treatment, while his passenger, 62-year-old Vickie Reutter, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Braelen Hicks-Schaefer and 1-year-old Weston Schaefer were both taken to the hospital with severe injuries, where they both later died.
“This kid was the greatest thing that ever happened to me,” said Stephen Schaefer, Weston’s father. “Just perfect. Beautiful.”
According to WFIE, Stephen Schaefer said both his whole family and his wife’s family gathered to say goodbye. He said after a while, his son grabbed his finger and responded to his touch before he died.
“I think Weston was kind enough to tell his Papa goodbye,” he said. “When they did all their tests and finally declared him 100% brain dead, that little heart was still beating.”
Inspired by Weston’s strength, Stephen Schaefer offered his son’s body for organ donation.
“The minute that it went through, they told us that phone was going off,” he said.
Hundreds of calls came in, all people eager for something that could save their children’s lives -- something Weston could provide.
“My little kid, my beautiful baby boy,” Stephen Schaefer said through tears. “He’s a hero, dude. He got a medal, it’s the second-highest honor that a civilian can get. It’s a beautiful medal. And they wanted to let us know, ‘Your son’s a hero.’”
Stephen Schaefer was told Weston’s stomach was donated to a six-month-old boy who has never been able to eat.
“That six-month-old that’s going to get to enjoy those awesome meals -- we fed that tummy for 13 months,” Stephen Schaefer said. “They’re going to know that was Weston “Tank” Samuel Schaefer’s tummy in there because he’s going to be craving chicken nuggets and Coco Puffs. They’re going to be grocery shopping!”
Weston’s donations have already helped 37 children, and more are on the way. Knowing this is helping his father move through grief.
“We can smile, we can be proud,” Stephen Schaefer said. “We can be happy.”
He and his friends are starting an effort to spread awareness about the benefits of organ donation called, Weston’s Warriors.
Copyright 2021 Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved. WFIE contributed to this report.