Organ Center rep tells PHS students how former classmate’s gift saved many lives

Published 2:40 am Saturday, September 22, 2018

Karen Hutto of the Alabama Organ Center knows than when she spoke recently to students at Pleasant Home High School, they felt a personal connection to her story.

Ryan Stokes signed a donor card three months before his unexpected and untimely death. Courtesy photo

“With it being at that school, they feel like a more personal connection to organ donation now,” she said. “It was different than just me going into a school and talking to students about making this decision when you go get your license.”

Organ donation has more meaning to PHS students because the organs of one of their own, Ryan Stokes, saved at least 12 lives this past summer. Stokes, 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.

But three months before he fell ill, Stokes had signed a donor card, his grandmother, JoAnn Miller said. The family has been notified that a 12-year-old girl in New Jersey received Ryan’s heart; one kidney went to a nurse, the other to a 52-year-old.

Hutto was invited to speak about organ donation in part because of Stokes’ story.

“Basically, I talked to them about how more than 124,000 people are on an organ donor waiting list,” she said. “Once every 10 minutes, someone is added to the waiting list. Twenty-two people die every day while waiting for a transplant.”

In Alabama alone, there are 2,400 people waiting for transplants.

Those interested in being an organ donor and indicate that desire on their driver’s license. Alternately, one may sign up at, or indicate the desire to be a donor on a Apple device using the My Health app.

“If you register to be a donor, make sure you share your wishes with your family,” Hutto said.

Stokes was the son of Roger Stokes and Kelly Stokes, and the grandson of Roger and JoAnn Miller.