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Austin mom spreads support for organ donation

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An Austin mother is sharing her story for the first time after losing her son in a tragic accident and making the decision to donate his organs.

"The word is overused but surreal," described Melisa Cummings recalling the day her world changed.

Cummings received a call in the middle of the night on January 8th, 2012. Her son, Carson, had been hit by a car in Los Angeles.

"You're not understanding that they said he had been in a terrible accident with a brain injury," said Cummings. She, her husband and daughter caught the first flight to California.

At 24, Carson had moved to California to follow his dreams of telling stories and making movies in Hollywood.

"You have hope. I thought I'm his Mom, I can fix this," she said.

Doctors told Cummings that Carson's brain injury was so severe. He wasn't going to make it. The hospital asked the Cummings if they would consider organ donation. As a family, the decision was clear.

"I know Carson would have wanted it. It means so much that his life means even more. That tragic accident could have been the end of our story," she explained.

While Texas is a big state, it can be a small world. The Cummings reached out to a friend who sent out a mass email asking if anyone knew someone in need of an organ. That someone was Adele Brown from Dallas. She had recently been placed on the waiting list for a new liver.

The University of Texas student was born with a liver condition. "I wasn't going to get worse until there was no time left," Brown explained. Doctors were managing her pain, but the only real solution was an organ donation.

"In my mind I get healthy if someone else dies and that's not something I wanted," Brown added. She thought her sister's wedding would be the last time she would get to see all of her family in one place. Brown felt her body slowly starting to shut down.

"There was a point I thought I'm so lucky. God is giving me one last time with my family and all my cousins. Everyone is here and I'm so lucky," Brown tearfully explained.

Timing would be everything for Brown. The morning after her sister's wedding she received the news that there was a liver for her and it belonged to a young man named Carson Cummings. She left for the hospital.

Mrs. Cummings sent a picture of her son to the hospital. "I'm sitting in the hospital and I'm looking at Carson and I was sad and happy. I heard about the family and I knew of his little sister, Adair, and I was so sad for them," Brown said.

Carson's liver was a match and the surgery was a success. Brown's liver likely would have only kept her alive for three more weeks.  A few months later, Brown got to meet the Cummings.

"One of the first things Mrs. Cummings said to me was Carson can't use his liver anymore and we're so glad that you get to. It made me feel so much better," Brown recalled.

"From the minute we met Adele it was a tearful reunion for me, my husband and daughter," Cummings said.

Both Brown and Cummings stay in touch and are sharing their story at St. David's North Austin Medical Center in honor of organ donation month. Carson's heart and kidneys saved three other lives. Cummings does not know who the other three recipients are.

Cummings never imagined having to make the decision to donate her son's organs. She believes it's a decision that's helped her family heal.

"It gives me strength and hope and I view life differently. Life and death differently," Cummings said.

Brown feels better than she's ever felt before. She has one year left at UT and plans on pursuing a career in the medical field and maybe even becoming a doctor.

Cummings knows her son is watching and maybe even making a movie.

"I know what he'd say. I feel him. I think he'd love Adele and I think he would have just felt so good that he could help that many people."

Cummings and Brown hope you'll consider giving the gift of life.

Signing up to become an organ donor is simple. Visit www.donatelifetexas.org for more information.

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