This story originally appeared at InspireMore.
It’s crazy how your whole life can change in the blink of an eye.
Carrie Schneiders remembers the day her life changed forever. It was June 19, and her husband, Cletus Schneiders was in the middle of eating dinner, while she was in the next room caring for the couple’s three children. Cletus began choking on a piece of steak, and when Carrie realized he wasn’t responding to her, she went to see what was wrong.
“When I walked over to him, I realized he was choking,” says Carrie. “Then he collapsed.”
Carrie dialed 911 and began doing chest compressions in an effort to save her husband’s life. Cletus was rushed to the hospital but declared brain-dead two days later. Carrie, shocked and upset by the loss of her husband, was left with the decision of whether or not to donate his organs. But she knew it was what he would have wanted, so she proceeded with the donation that would touch 50 strangers’ lives.
The staff at Mercy West Hospital recognized what a special and difficult thing Carrie was doing and how hard this goodbye must be for her and the rest of Cletus’s family. So as preparations were being made to take his body to the operating room to harvest his organs more than 150 people—staff members, doctors, nurses, family, and friends alike—stood along the edges of the hallway to pay their respects and honor Cletus for the donations he was about to make.
“My initial reaction was speechless. I feel like everything paused for a second as I turned the corner and saw all of the people who came out to support us,” Carrie says. “Letting him go at the end of the hallway was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. I still have friends and family reach out to me and tell me that being at the honor walk was one of the most amazing yet heartbreaking moments of their life.”
In the midst of her grief, Carrie had the foresight to take a picture of this touching “Honor Walk,” which later went viral on Facebook. Before long, the support she received from these 150 men and women was amplified by the words of love and support from thousands of strangers online.
“The first several nights I was getting messages from all over the world, even Australia,” Carrie says. “One man, in particular, reached out to me from Oregon, he wanted to thank me and Clete. Because of someone like Clete, he received a liver transplant and was able to watch his grandchildren grow up. That story really hit home since Clete also donated his liver.”
Although allowing the donation process to go forward was one of the hardest decisions Carrie has ever had to make, she says hearing organ recipients’ stories has kept her going in the days since her husband’s passing.
One of the stories that would change Carrie’s life forever was that of John Mock, a father of four with a genetic autoimmune disease that threatened his life. He had gotten on the recipient list for a new liver just six hours before Clete donated his. There were 156 potential recipients on the list for that donation, but John was the only one who was a match. Doctors reached out to John, asking him if he could be at the hospital within an hour.
Just as Clete was losing his life, a new opportunity to live was offered to John. As he was wheeled into surgery, he asked his daughter Becca if she would try to talk to Clete’s family. “I wanted to thank this family for saving my life — I would be dead without them — and offer my condolences,” John says.
A month after Cletus passed away, Carrie, along with Clete’s parents, stepparents, and children, arrived at LifeCenter in Cincinnati to meet John and his family. As expected, it was an emotional gathering, filled with gratefulness and grief, tears of both sadness and joy. The families have agreed to continue to maintain their relationship in the future in Clete’s honor.
“Meeting John has helped tremendously with my grief,” says Carrie.
And John agrees, saying, “After the first two minutes, it felt like we had known each other forever, just like a real family.”
While Carrie and her family have begun healing emotionally, their finances have continued to suffer tremendously following the loss of their sole breadwinner. A GoFundMe page has been started to help with Clete’s final expenses and the current needs of his family.
Although Carrie and the rest of Clete’s family will continue to mourn their loss for years to come, knowing that his death saved so many other people’s lives gives them hope and joy in a dark time.
Please share this story to show your gratitude for this family’s sacrifice, which has saved the lives of so many.