Families of man killed in crash, girl who received his heart come together
Dale Carnahan had a good heart, his friends and family said, and six months after he was fatally injured in a car crash it still beats on.
Those who loved Carnahan, 18, gathered Sunday to celebrate his life and the life he gave to others by donating his organs, including the 11-year-old girl who received his heart. More than 150 people were helped by his donation, including a little boy in Georgia who needed a kidney and two blind people who can now see, said his mother Cathy Carnahan of Poolesville.
Carnahan, a 2008 graduate of Poolesville High School who coached youth basketball and had recently begun working for a construction company, was fatally injured when the car he was riding in struck a utility pole on Darnestown Road in Germantown early March 28, according to police. He died the next day. The driver survived.
"It's part of our healing, I think it's going to help us go on," Cathy Carnahan said at a get-together at the Upper Montgomery County Volunteer Fire Department in Beallsville following the dedication of a bench in her son's memory at Whalen Commons in Poolesville.
It was also a chance for the community to meet Julia Taylor of Spotsylvania, Va., who was born with a congenital heart disease and developed complete heart block, when the electrical signals that keep the heart beating aren't transmitted properly.
More than 100,000 people in the U.S. are awaiting a transplant, including more than 2,000 people in Maryland, and about 18 people on the waiting list die daily, according to Natalie Benavides, executive director of the nonprofit Donate Life Maryland.
"It's a heartbreaking situation for a parent to lose a child," Benavides said. "From my experience when parents are in these devastating situations, when they say they want to donate their child's organs they overwhelmingly say they want to prevent another family from going through what they're going through. It's an amazing gift."
The Taylors always knew Julia would need a pacemaker, but when she became sick about two years ago an X-ray revealed that her heart had become swollen, her mother Jennifer Taylor said. She had a stroke while the family was deciding whether to put her on the waiting list for a heart, and Julia received the transplant March 1.
"[My husband and I] both cried because we knew that a family had just lost someone, and that's what's hard. It's a beautiful gift but you feel so much for the family who lost someone. It's very humbling," Jennifer Taylor said.
After the surgery, the doctor told her that they didn't need to shock Julia's heart — "he said it just took off running," Jennifer Taylor said. "She's feisty and from what I understand so was Dale."
Julia is in school and playing soccer.
"Everybody's been really nice, they've made me feel welcome," Julia said.
To donate to Dale Carnahan's memorial bench, send checks made out to the Town of Poolesville with a note indicating what the donation is for to Town Hall, 19721 Beall St., or contact Jim Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org. Money left over after the bench is paid for will be donated to Poolesville High School's athletics program.
For more information on becoming an organ donor, visit www.donatelifemaryland.org.