LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — On the evening of March 9, Ryan LaHaie was driving along I-96 near Lansing with his wife and 3-year-old son when a suspected drunken driver slammed into their car head-on.
“I remember seeing the headlights come across the median and then don’t remember the impact at all,” LaHaie, 38, of Lowell, told WLNS from his hospital bed.
When he came to, it was too quiet.
“I was scared because I didn’t hear anything,” he said. “My son wasn’t crying, so you know, my first instinct was ‘Oh my God.’ I could see my wife. … She was slumped over.”
His wife Dana, 38, was dead.
LaHaie blacked out again.
He and his son Reed were rushed to a Lansing hospital. LaHaie was put into a medically induced coma.
Reed was placed on life support, but he wasn’t showing any signs of brain activity. His grandparents were told he would not survive. With his father in a coma, deciding what would happen next fell to them. They decided to donate his organs and tissue.
“I thought about if Reed or my other grandson … needed an organ, it would be devastating to not be able to find a donation for them, so my final decision was based on that,” his grandmother Betsy said.
“We could see that as the only good thing that might from this terrible tragedy,” his grandfather Doug said.
Reed was taken to his father’s room for a time, though LaHaie was not conscious to say goodbye.
Then he was wheeled to the operating room. Hospital staff gathered shoulder-to-shoulder in the hallways for his honor walk. His grandparents were overwhelmed by the gesture.
“Little Reed’s family, they can’t change their story,” Betsy Miner Swartz of Gift of Life Michigan said. “Their story’s tragic. But they were able to write a different story for at least three other families that we know of right now.”
Reed donated both kidneys, his liver, three heart valves and tissue to a 70-year-old woman, a 40-year-old man and a 1-year-old girl. In the future, he could help save to other children.
Above a week later, his father woke up.
“I’m 100% convinced and take solace in the fact that (organ donation) was 100% the right decision,” LaHaie said. “The ability to help save others is really the most incredible thing.”
“I have to make sure that my wife and son’s legacy live on,” he continued, choking back tears.
Right now in Michigan, nearly 3,000 people are waiting for a lifesaving organ donation. Donors can help save up to eight lives and tissue donors can improve the lives of up to 75 people.
The driver who police say is responsible for the crash, 55-year-old Thomas Hahn of Illinois, faces five criminal charges including operating while intoxicated causing death. His lawyer told WLNS he is extremely remorseful and will likely take a plea deal in the coming months.