Late Friday afternoon, family and close friends gathered at an Indianapolis hospital for an “honor walk” to pay tribute to Danny Joe Smith and his decision to be an organ donor.
Smith, 25, of Terre Haute, was severely injured Tuesday in a motorcycle accident in Vermillion County and sustained traumatic brain injury, with no hope of recovery, family said. His wife, Rachael Smith, also sustained injuries, but her pain is much more than physical; she is losing her husband of 21/2 years and her soul-mate for the past 10 years.
Loss of her husband isn’t the only heartache she is dealing with.
In March 2018, Rachael Smith lost her brother, Garrett Sands, who died after being shot during a night of drinking among friends; she has spent the last 14 months trying to heal emotionally and mentally from that tragedy and had been back to work only one day when the motorcycle accident happened.
Jayna Jones Sullivan, the mother of Garrett Sands and Rachael Smith — and mother-in-law of Danny Joe Smith — has openly shared the family’s losses on social media.
Her son was an organ donor, and she wants people to know about her son-in-law’s generous gift of life.
“We want everybody to know what a loving man he was, what a loving man he is and the loving thing he is doing” by donating his organs so that others can live, Sullivan said in a telephone interview. “He wanted to be an organ donor.”
Family also believe “Joe’s reaction in the accident saved my daughter’s life,” Sullivan said.
Friday morning, family received notice that the organ donation would take place later that day.
“Joe will give people his gifts today,” she said Friday. “Whomever receives his heart is receiving a piece of gold,” Sullivan wrote.
For the donor walk, family, close friends and hospital staff lined up in a hallway as Danny Joe Smith made his way from intensive care to the surgery suite. “It’s out of respect to him for his gift and to stand there as his bed is wheeled through the hallway,” Sullivan said.
At the end, there was a moment of silence, and a liaison with the Indiana Donor Network shared comments about Smith written by his family.
“The most important things in life to Joe are his wife Rachael, his family and his friends,” the liaison read. Everyone who knows him loves him because of his helpful heart of gold, his loving brown eyes and his infectious laugh and smile.
“Joe is beautiful inside and out. Most of all, Joe loved life. We love you, Joe,” the liaison read.
It’s been a difficult 14 months for the family, Sullivan said. “I want to thank everybody so much for reaching out to my daughter and son-in-law and for showing as much love and compassion as they have for them. We’ve had a very, very hard year.”
Family members have supported each other as they have worked to heal through the loss of Garrett, “and now, we have to do what we have to do and figure out how to move forward,” Sullivan said.
A Go Fund Me account has been set up for Rachael Smith to assist with significant medical bills, house bills “and day to day funds until she is both physically and emotionally ready to return to work,” the site reads.
Jayna Sullivan wrote on social media Wednesday: “Joe is [Rachael’s] teenage sweetheart and they have been together for 10 years. He is good to her and they are soulmates. He is a bright electrician with Ketner & Sons. I just can’t believe this happened to our Joe, my Josephina Rowina as I call him. Garrett was Garrita Lynn. I always teased them with loving names.
“I love you Joe ... more than a son-in-law to me. He’s been like a son, even more so since Garrett was killed. You are a part of my heart. I’m stunned right now. Just stunned and in disbelief that this has happened to him, and to my sweet sweet Rachael. Such a horrible, horrible thing to happen. Oh Joe. My heart is broken. My family is broken and disappearing.”
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at email@example.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.