After 23 years with the Vernon Police Department, Steven Chipman retired and opened his own private investigation company. But earlier this year, at the age of 50, everything changed when he suffered a cardiac event at home and a brain injury.
"Realizing the brain injury was not going to get better we had to transition to the idea of organ donation," said Chipman's wife, Kate Rooney. "He was the best husband and the best father in the world."
More than seven months later, Rooney and her two boys stood next to Lydia. Lydia is one of the many people Rooney's husband helped with his organ donation.
Lydia was just 19 when she went on dialysis. For the last 42 years that was her life until Chipman gave her another.
"She doesn't have to go to dialysis anymore, and that is a grueling, grueling process to be on dialysis. She says she can travel now. She's not stuck at home," Rooney said.
To celebrate and honor Chipman and his gift, Wednesday evening his two sons, 11-year-old Jake and 13-year-old Hunter, raised a “Donate Life” flag outside Saint Francis Hospital. Everyone there hopes their example will lead others to register to be a donor.
"One donor can help the lives of more than 75 people because of the tissues and other things like corneas that can be donated in addition to organs," said Dr. David Shapiro, vice chair of Surgery at Saint Francis Hospital.
"A lot of people are organ donors, but you never believe that day is going to come and being the person to make that ultimate decision for them," said Rooney. "We had discussed it in the past, and it's not an easy process. But knowing what the outcome could be really helped guide us."
Rooney says Saint Francis Hospital made a difficult decision as easy as it possibly could be.
There are 118,000 people waiting for life-saving organ transplants across the country, according to Donate Life America.
Lydia no longer has to wait. The former police officer and father of two worked to save lives on the job and long after.
"There's nothing we could do to change this outcome. It does give a little peace that somebody's life was able to be enhanced," said Rooney.
For those interested in becoming a donor, you can register at Registerme.org.
Shapiro says in addition to that, it's important to have the discussion about organ donation and what your wishes are with your family.