Pleasant Home teen donated organs, saved many lives

Published 1:54 am Thursday, June 14, 2018

Ryan Stokes’ friends and family members said he spent a lifetime being helpful, so it was no surprise to them when he signed an organ donor card in March.

But they never dreamed he would die unexpectedly three months later, and his organs would save the lives of nine or 10 people.

“My boy is a hero,” his grandmother, JoAnn Miller, said. “That is really helping us get through this.”

Ryan, who was 15, was travelling with a group of area students and teachers on a history tour of the nation’s capital when he became ill and collapsed. He was air lifted to Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., and quickly had surgery to correct problems caused by a intestinal malrotation. His surgeon told family members he thought the teen died at the moment he collapsed in his hotel room. He was placed on life support, but did not recover.

“He was very happy and healthy when he left here,” Mrs. Miller said. “He was so excited, and he had a super good day on Monday.”

Ryan Stokes is shown with his best friend, Alana Smith, in Washington, D.C., last week.

Ryan’s best friend, Alana Smith, can attest to that. The two were practically inseparable, she said, and had been planning to participate in the trip for a year.

“We were pumped,” Alana said. “We were also kind of scared to leave Andalusia to go to a huge city. We were glad we were going together. We were very, very excited.”

The group travelled by charter bus, and last Monday was their first day in the D.C. area.

“Being able to spend time with him there was great,” Alana said. “We saw the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the White House.”

Alana said she also was with Ryan when the pain that signified his illness began.

“It makes me feel a lot better that I was there,” she said.

His parents, Roger Stokes and Kelly Stokes, an aunt, and his grandparents went to his side as quickly as possible. Mrs. Miller said a counselor told family members that Ryan’s organs probably have already saved nine or 10 people, and that he could help countless others.

“They harvested everything,” she said.

The family was told that a 12-year-old girl received his heart.

“We are so thankful,” she said. “I have prayed for all of the recipients. I just hope that one day we can touch that little girl and feel Ryan’s heart beating.”


His grandmother said he was always thoughtful of others, and always willing to help.

Not long before he got his learner’s permit in March, he asked his mom, “What do you think about me being an organ donor,” his grandmother recalled. “She said that would be wonderful.”

“Nanna,” as he called Mrs. Miller, drove him to take the learner’s permit test. When the administrator asked him if he wanted to be an organ donor, he immediately said yes.

“When I heard that, I never dreamed three and a half months later, it would be coming about,” she said.

He even talked with his friends about his desire to be an organ donor.

“I was not surprised,” Alana said. “He told me, ‘When I pass away I want to be helping someone one last time.’

“I told him, ‘Ryan, you can’t get any more better. You are so kind-hearted.’

“He truly cared for others and that really rubbed off on me,” his best friend said. “Even if people didn’t like us, we said let’s still be nice.

“Ryan was truly a good person,” she said.


If Ryan Stokes was known for his good heart, he also was known for his sense of humor.

“Oh, my gosh. That kid. He had so much humor,” Alana said. “Both of us together were too much. He made a lot of people laugh, and he attracted others with his comedy. Half of my stuff I got from him. I loved him so much. He was just an amazing friend.”

“He was a very kind person,” fellow PHS student Courtney Griggs said. “He was really sweet and cared a lot about people. He could light somebody’s day up easily.”

“Ryan was an amazing young man,” Kenzie Watson recalled. “Every time I saw him he was always smiling or laughing. He loved and cared deeply about all his friends and he just embraced life regardless of anyone’s thoughts. He had a really sweet soul.”

The family will receive friends from 6 until 8 tonight, Thursday, June 14, at Foreman’s Funeral Home. Funeral services are at 2 p.m. Friday at Cedar Grove Church of Christ.

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