RICHMOND, Indiana - The third annual "Josh Rose Day" at the Richmond Community Blood Center (CBC) Wednesday, March 5 was more than a birthday party and blood drive in memory of organ donor Josh Rose. It was a celebration of first-time blood donations and the first ever meeting between Josh's family and Chris Norman, one of the people saved by Josh's "gift of life."
Josh left behind a wife and two small children when he fell from the bed of a moving pickup truck in 2010 and suffered a fatal blow to the head. But his commitment to organ donation gave a second chance to four gravely ill patients in need of transplants.
Chris Norman received a liver transplant from Josh on September 5, 2010. Another man received his heart, and two others his kidneys. Josh's mother Shirley Falcone met the heart recipient and felt Josh's heart beating in his chest. She corresponded with Chris and spoke on the phone. Chris is a regional vice president for a hotel company in Indianapolis. He wanted to come to the first Josh Rose Day blood drive in 2012 but was ill. The families couldn't connect in 2013, but this year Chris was committed to coming to the blood drive, bringing his family, and hopefully donating.
"We definitely wanted to meet every one in the family," he said. "I learned a lot on line about the family and wanted to take the opportunity to donate and meet these guys and thank them for the great gift they gave our family. It was a big loss for their family and I was just excited to meet them."
The unique relationship between the families was set in motion when Chris went from being "perfectly healthy" to hospitalized with acute liver failure. "I had a couple of days to live really," he said. He was evaluated for transplant suitability and placed on a waiting list. "My wife went home and 11 or 12 hours later they were calling her back to say they have a donor." Josh had been at a gathering in Richmond, enjoying friends and the outdoors, when he suffered his fatal accident.
Chris arrived at the Richmond Donor Center for Josh Rose Day with his wife Kristin, 21-year-old son Nick and 16-year-old daughter Madalyne. They met Shirley and her husband Joe; Josh's wife Tasha; Josh' 11-yearold daughter Haylie and Josh and Tasha's 9-year-old son Caleb; Josh's brothers Bryson and Mike, and Mike's 16-year-old daughter Heather.
The entire Norman family registered to donate. Chris was not able to donate because of his transplant, and Madalyne was deferred because of a minor medical condition. But Kristin was able to donate, and Nick made his first lifetime donation.
"I've done it my whole life," said Chris. "I started when I was 16. My wife and I both donate, and we both have been organ donors ever since we got our driver licenses at 16. We always believed in donating blood and helping any way we can."
Josh's niece Heather made her first lifetime donation at the blood drive. At 16, all she needed was her dad Mike's consent. "I've been wanting to do it as long as we've been doing the blood drive for my uncle," said Heather. "I remember him a lot. He was always the crazy one! There was not a lot you couldn't go and talk with him about, he was always open about things."
The blood drive resulted in 32 registrations with four first-time donors and 24 donations for 192% of the collection goal, which surpassed the totals from last year's Josh Rose Day.
Tasha also donated in Josh's memory. She has remarried and has a five-month old son. Both Josh and Tasha had children from previous relationship before they were married, and now Tasha and her husband Shawn care for eight children from their combined families, ranging in age from five months to 16 years. Josh and Tasha's son Caleb was five when Josh died.
"For us, CJ (Caleb Joshua), Josh's son we had together, he said, 'I can't wait until Wednesday because it's dad's birthday!'" said Tasha. "Josh is still alive because of this. It's nice having something positive to think about on his birthday."
Chris Norman knows that he is still alive because of Josh, and nothing could be more positive for both families than celebrating the lives of Chris and Josh at the blood drive.
"It's amazing, an incredible thing," said Chris. "It's not easy, not for them, I'm sure. It's emotional for us as well. That was the idea from the beginning, after the initial correspondence and talking on the phone. It's always been the plan for us to have the opportunity to finally meet the family. It was great for us and I think good for everyone."