Picayune Family Proud Of Organ Donating Daughter

Jill Harrigan wanted a career helping others. That's why she enrolled in the student nursing program at USM.

But just weeks before graduation, the 21 year old died suddenly after suffering severe headaches

Though her death brought much grief, it also meant new life for others.

That new life was made possible because Jill Harrigan was an organ donor. The student nurse had discussed her wishes while helping a roommate with a research paper about organ donation. Her grieving family made good on their daughter's desire to help others.

"Very determined. Very goal oriented. When she made her mind up to do something, she did it," said Christine Stogner, as she described her daughter, Jill Harrigan.

Jill's parents say her mind was made up about being an organ donor. The young nursing student with the gleaming smile had discussed it with her roommate.

"Jill had just helped her roommate with a paper on organ donation for her class. And she had expressed that Jill said she really wanted to make sure they had their wishes done for organ donation, so that kind of made my decision on donating her organs," her mother said.

She was on the dance team in high school. As a high school senior in Slidell, Jill performed with her dance team during a Super Bowl game in New Orleans. She was also a competitive swimmer.

"I was a swimming instructor and she became a swimming instructor. And basically that's what got her into swimming at school. That's how she earned her way during the summer, she taught swimming lessons," said Christine.

Since she died just weeks before graduation, USM presented the family Jill's nursing diploma. They also have another keepsake:  a medal recognizing her organ donations.

"Right now, from my understanding, she's probably saved seven or eight lives from her organ donations. And that's something to be proud of," said father, Ronald Stogner.

Her parents will proudly present a quilt square at the national donor recognition ceremony in Washington D.C. later this week.

The young woman who planned on caring for others with her nursing skills, ended up saving lives with the ultimate self sacrifice.

Her mother says the decision was the right one.

"I look at it this way. If it can help some others, another child or another family from having to go through what we had to go through, it was worth it."

If you'd like to be an organ donor, it's important to share that intention with your loved ones. Signing your driver's license does not give permission for organ donation in Mississippi. Your closest relative must give that permission.