Heather Miller’s personality was infectious. “She was one of those people that everyone would seem to flock to,” her mom, Jody said. “She would come in our house, and it was like the house just lit up.”
She aspired to be a nurse, because that’s what her mom Jody said she did best. She took care of people. Jody said she was the caregiver to her younger siblings, and played the role of a mom at home.
Suddenly, and tragically, Heather lost her life in a car accident at the young age of 21. Jody said through the heartache and pain, she had to find some kind of light, and a way to step forward. “I got together with my family and I said, I can’t let this end here,” she said.
Since Heather’s passing, Jody has organized a golf scramble in her daughter’s name. The event is so successful, that dozens of students from local high schools have received scholarships. There are two fully-endowed scholarships in Heather’s name at WVU’s nursing school. The first student graduated just last year.
But, Jody’s mission doesn’t end there. She started up the Wheeling chapter of MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and she is an advocate with CORE, the Center for Organ Recovery and Education. “You know, I hear people say this ‘save one life kind of stuff’, I say yeah, if I save one life out there, if I make one difference in one family that a mother doesn’t have to you know, never see their daughter again or their son again, that’s what this is all about,” she said.
Heather was an organ donor, her kidneys, heart and liver helped save lives. Her tissue could enhance up to 50 more. Through her heartache, that’s how Jody receives comfort.
“It’s very heartwarming to see the other side, you know that girl was at her deepest, darkest days and her mother thought it was going to be the last day with her daughter, and Heather gave her the gift of life so you know, to me, that’s amazing,” Jody said. She met Heather’s kidney recipient this summer, a woman from San Diego, who flew in for the golf scramble.
Jody said she continues to spread the word about organ donation in the community. “You would be amazed at the people that have come to me and said ‘Hey, because of Heather, I am now a registered organ donor.'”
Organ donation has taken Heather’s story as far as the Rose Bowl Parade, where her face was part of a florograph on a donate life float in 2012.
Jody says it should be no question to check that box at the DMV. “I just would say, why would you not? Really, then the other question lies is if you or a family member needed an organ, would you take it?”
Jody said she thinks Heather would be proud of how her mom is carrying on her legacy.
“It’s the most selfless act, to us, you know, she’s that hero,” Jody said. “She did more in 21 years that I will ever do in a lifetime.”