Former Pekin resident Cazmirr “Cash” Landers’ last gift to the world was literally a gift of hope.
When Landers, 2, drowned in a swimming accident last year, his mother, Brooke Eaton of Pekin, met representatives from the Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Network. She had never heard of the organization before, but after hearing about services that Gift of Hope provides, she made the decision to donate Landers’ organs.
“I know that he was a very sharing boy and a very loving boy,” said Eaton. “He loved to play with other kids, and (he was) very outgoing. I know this is something he would want to have done.”
In the past year, various patients in need have received both of Landers’ kidneys and his liver. And today, his heart beats in the chest of Lola Bond, 1, of Akeley, Minn.
According to an email from Shauna Schuda, media relations coordinator for Gift of Hope, Lola was diagnosed last August with cardiomyopathy, a disease that results in an enlarged heart. Her heart was crushing her surrounding organs and could not work effectively in her infant body. Lola’s grandmother, Margaret Bond Borel, described herself as being “absolutely devastated” by the news. When she learned that a match had been found for a heart transplant, she recalls having mixed emotions.
“I was overwhelmed with grief for the family that had to lose their little one to provide a heart,” she said. “I was very relieved that (a heart) was found, and we were going to be able to keep (Lola). (I was also) scared for the upcoming surgery, because it was not a guarantee.”
Lola received her new heart Sept. 4, 2018. Last month, Eaton traveled to Minnesota to meet the girl who now carries her son’s heart. They met at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, where Lola has been a patient since last August. Bond Borel had contacted Eaton to thank her, and Eaton then expressed an interest in meeting Lola and her family.
“Meeting Lola and hearing my son’s heart was extraordinary,” said Eaton. “That’s what I was looking forward to, that and (a chance) to have a special bond with the little girl who has my boy’s heart. It was a little stressful, but I felt overjoyed. It felt good, and it felt right when Miss Lola cuddled up into my chest.”
Eaton said she will always have a special relationship with Lola and her family.
Bond Borel said her meeting with Eaton has led to them talking daily either over the telephone or through video chat, and she believes the event marked the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
“It’s probably even deeper than that,” Bond Borel said. “There’s that connection with her, because without her great gift, Lola wouldn’t be here. In some way, it almost feels like Cash can continue on his journey with Lola.”
Bond Borel said Lola will need to recover her strength before she can return home. Her transplanted heart, however, is performing extremely well. Bond Borel has established a Facebook page called “Lola’s Rockstars,” to provide updates on Lola’s condition.
“People need to talk to their families about organ donation,” said Bond Borel. “Or you can donate blood when you have the opportunity, or save a life by donating bone marrow. There are a thousand ways to help.”