Harrison County woman saves lives, helps family cope with loss

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - More than 115,000 Americans of all ages are waiting for life-saving organ transplants. Fewer than 23,000 of them will receive the organs they need. One coast woman's decision to become a donor saved numerous lives, and helped her own family cope with a tragic loss.

Ellen DuVernay says her daughter Brittany, "was always smiling and happy, and always found the positive in everything."

Brittany Duvernay Saucier was full of life and the mother of a beautiful, four-year-old girl, when a tragic accident took her life. The 26-year-old fell off the back of a golf cart she was riding on, with her daughter and her mother. Her mom recalls the tragic moment that changed their lives.

"I felt a jolt in the golf cart and I realized I didn't hear Brittany talking anymore."

Brittany hit her head when she fell and suffered a brain injury, from which she would never recover.

"As I was holding her in the street, it's like I said goodbye to her, because I had a feeling it wasn't going to come out good. But I kept hoping and praying something would change."

It was a tremendous loss for her family, including Brittany's daughter, who was too young to understand why she wouldn't see her Mom again. Ellen said telling her was one of the most difficult things she had to do.

"I said, 'Mommy is going to heaven. She'll have her wings. She'll still be able to watch you, but we won't be able to see her.'"

They won't see her anymore, but they cherish the memories. A friend of the family made three quilts for the Duvernays. Two had treasured photos, but the third was made out of Brittany's favorite t-shirts.

"This has been a lifesaver. And even when it's not cold, I wrap up in this blanket and I can almost feel her."

It has been 16 months since Brittany's death. Ellen and her husband, along with Brittany's sister, Courtney, all lean on each other for support, and they hang on to their memories of a beautiful life cut too short.

"I rely on my faith. Faith family and friends are the only things that have gotten me through to this point, and I always try to see something positive in it."

Ellen said finding the positive was easier, thanks to Brittany's decision to sign up to be an organ donor. Somehow knowing that, along with the Duvernays' strong faith, made the loss a little bit easier.

"They came in and told us they would be able to use her cornea, her liver, her kidneys, her lungs. That made us feel better, because even though we had a huge loss, so many people would benefit from it. It's a very proud feeling."

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.