HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A young coast woman who lost her life in a tragic accident in 2011 has saved several lives, thanks to her selfless, simple act of signing up to become an organ donor. It has also brought two families together during the most difficult of times; turning tragedy into hope.
Ellen Duvernay took a bold step 15 months after her 26-year-old daughter Brittany Duvernay Saucier's tragic death, and embarked on a trip of a lifetime to meet one of her daughter's organ recipients. The meeting at a Dallas airport is one she will never forget.
"It's hard to explain the feeling. When I hugged Nancy, realizing she wouldn't be here without my daughter's lungs, I squeezed her really hard and she said, 'It's okay, I have 26-year-old lungs now."
Nancy Suarez Lee, 54, was a mother also with a 24-year-old daughter. Nancy had a rare lung disease and desperately needed the transplant.
"Before the transplant, she was on 100 percent oxygen and she could barely walk from her bed to the sofa," Ellen recalled.
But Brittany's gift of life has given Nancy new life, and the bond has led to a very special friendship.
"We talk almost daily on the phone, or computer now, and it's like we've known each other forever. It's a very proud thing."
Since their first meeting in Dallas, Nancy and her daughter have traveled to Gulfport to stay with the Duvernays. And Nancy's daughter, Jessica, and Ellen's daughter, Courtney, have also forged a friendship. Ellen said the relationship developed very naturally between the two families.
"They're easy to be with. They are amazing people and I think we will be friends forever."
Ellen said it's comforting to know that Brittany's selfless act of signing up to become an organ donor not only saved Nancy's life, but at least three others who received her liver and kidneys.
"Knowing Brittany didn't only help four people with her organs; she helped four families to allow them to continue to live, and to be able to celebrate life with their families."
Ellen said that's what Brittany would have wanted.
"Brittany was one of the sweetest, most loving people you would ever meet and she was the greatest Mom ever."
Nancy hasn't met the other organ recipients, but she has learned they are all doing well, thanks to Brittany's generosity.
"Four people are definitely living a very good life because of Brittany, and whoever received them, have a piece of gold."