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Last year, I lost my daughter. This holiday season, I’m grateful for the gifts she gave.

By Deanna Pratt

On a stormy night in July 2022, my daughter died after a car accident.

Catherine was the light of my life and the life of the party. At 19 years old, she was about to start her sophomore year at Towson University. A true social butterfly, she had so many friends, it was hard to keep track sometimes. There wasn’t a person she met who didn’t love her. She grew up in Easton and played lacrosse and soccer and loved Halloween. Catherine had two cats and a dog whom she adored; she was so passionate about animals that she was exploring careers in wildlife conservation.

In the blink of an eye, she was taken from me and the world.

I received a distressing call that fateful night from one of Catherine’s friends who had tracked Catherine’s phone to the middle of a field off-campus as they hadn’t heard from her in a while and were worried. I later learned that Catherine was driving on a slick road and crashed into a telephone pole. Despite being rushed to University of Maryland Medical Center’s Shock Trauma Unit, she did not survive.

There is no pain like that of losing a child. I entered a well of grief to which there is, seemingly, no end. I didn’t know if I would ever recover, and while time has gone on, I am unsure if I ever will. I’ve learned that there is no “moving on” after an experience like this, only moving forward.

A few years prior, when getting her driver’s license, Catherine said “Yes” to registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor. This is too often seen as an inconsequential part of the process of getting/renewing a license. Often, people don’t give their answer much thought and/or don’t understand the impact that being an organ donor can have. After Catherine passed, I was informed of her decision to be a donor and that she could potentially save multiple lives. This is exactly what she would have wanted. UMMC told me about the possibility of a “directed donation,” which allows us to request Catherine’s organs go to a specific person waiting for a transplant. I loved the idea of Catherine’s gifts possibly benefiting someone in our local community if they were a match, so I posted on social media asking if anyone knew someone waiting for a transplant. Someone did, and amazingly, one of Catherine’s kidney went to a local woman I’ve since met.

Catherine saved five lives, donated her corneas for research and enhanced many other lives as a tissue donor.

The holiday season is a season of joy and love. For many, it’s also a season of grief, as we’re absorbed by another year without the ones we cherished most. Going into our second Christmas without Catherine, I’m not sure the pain will ever go away. And just, maybe, I don’t want it to, as it remains one thing still connecting me to her. That said, my family and I couldn’t be prouder of Catherine, for both the life she lived and the gifts of life she gave after her death. Knowing her heart still beats in this world gives us hope and comfort.

Over 100,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for a transplant. In this season of giving, I hope you will consider giving the most critical gift – the gift of life. Learn more and register as a donor at My daughter’s legacy lives on through her gifts – yours can too.


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