Family shares daughter's 'gift of life'
26-year-old Canadian woman's sudden death turns into gift of life for others
"When the commentator said, 'Do you remember what you were doing on Christmas morning,' it was just a flood of tears," said Patti Praill of Harrow, Ontario.
As Patti and Marc Praill watched the story of two Michigan teens who received organ transplants on Christmas Day, they knew it was too close to be a coincidence.
Read back: 'Christmas miracle' saves two teens
"All of the details made sense, it all made sense. It didn't take long to figure it out," said Patti.
"We knew it was our girl. She continues to make us proud," said Marc.
Their girl is their daughter Pamela Praill, a 26 year-old who lived in Windsor.
"Pamela was beautiful, vibrant, outgoing," said Patti.
She loved her family, especially her niece Clare and nephew Jack.
Last December, just two days before Christmas, Pamela and her mom decided to cross the border into the United States for some last minute shopping.
"She was looking for a frame," remembered Patti. "She had made her new nephew a Christmas gift and wanted to frame it."
At the Michael's store in Macomb, Pamela went to the bathroom. When she didn't return, Patti went looking for her. She found her laying on the bathroom floor.
"I pulled her towards me, I said, 'Pam, what's wrong?' She wasn't responding," said Patti. "So I kept asking her, 'What's wrong, what's wrong?' And she said, 'My head hurts.'"
An ambulance rushed them to the hospital, as Pamela's family and boyfriend raced to cross the border.
"When I got the news, for some unknown reason, I knew it was terrible," said Marc.
At the hospital, doctors said Pamela had suffered an aneurysm, a burst blood vessel in her brain.
"They explained to us that it's very bad and in all likelihood, she wouldn't survive," said Marc.
They asked if the Praills would be willing to donate Pamela's organs.
"We knew it was what Pam would have wanted, and it is what we always believed in," said Marc.
On Christmas morning, as families gathered to celebrate the holiday, Pamela's loved ones gathered to say goodbye.
"They allowed us to lay on the bed with her," said Patti. "And I put my head on her heart and I said, 'Keep it going honey, somebody needs it.' I said, 'You did good.'"
In the parking lot, they saw the helicopter waiting to transport Pamela's organs. It was the University of Michigan's Survival Flight.
A letter from Gift of Life of Michigan told them Pamela's liver went to a 15-year-old boy and one of her kidneys went to a 15 year-old boy. After seeing a story on Local 4, featuring two 15 year-old boys who received transplants on Christmas Day at U of M, the Praills say they have no doubt, those boys received their daughter's organs.
"To see them so young and so close to being gone from their families and for them to be brought back, it's a miracle," said Pamela's brother Ryan Praill. "My sister is a Christmas miracle."
"I feel like we can find comfort in knowing that these boys have a second chance," said Nicole Praill, Pamela's sister-in-law. "She had such a big heart."
There is an international twist to all of this. If Pamela and her mom had stayed in Canada that day, her organs would have stayed there too. They would have gone to different people, or perhaps, to no one at all.
"Had she been at home, she probably would have died in her sleep and those organs probably would have not been used," said Patti.
Pamela's family wonders if the boys will develop her fondness for candy or her love for winter and snow. They have a message for the teenagers.
"Don't be sad. You didn't cause her death. You get to live from her death, and that is what makes it so much easier for us," said Patti.
Most of all, they hope Pamela can inspire others to give the gift of life.
"She was able to help countless people," said Pamela's boyfriend Michael Broser. "One thing I like to think is somewhere out there, her heart is still beating."
Pamela's organs saved the lives of at least five people and her donation of bone, tendons and tissue helped countless others. The Praills say they would very much like to meet all of the recipients someday and tell them about their daughter. They are dedicated to encouraging more people to join the organ donor registries in the United States and in Canada.
"Everyone wants to know what they can do to help you," said Marc. "All we can ask is to register."
"She earned her wings, and she went directly to Heaven on Christmas Day," said Patti. "It does make it easier to know she didn't die in vain."
To join Michigan's Organ Donor Registry, click here.
To join the organ donor registry in Canada, click here.
In Michigan: To see how your county ranks in number of registered donors compared to other counties, click here.