Son lives in gift of organs to others

Greg Rodgers of Modesto describes his son's organ donation as "one spot of light in a black sky."

The "Donate Life" flag that has flown at Memorial Medical Center over the last week is in honor of 14-year-old Ryan Rodgers of Modesto. Following his death in July, seven of his organs were donated to save other lives.

"This whole situation has been nothing but bad," Rodgers said, "but to know there is another family that won't have to lose a loved one, that is a little light that something positive came out of this."

Memorial is holding flag- raising ceremonies to draw attention to the importance of organ donation. The flag will be flown for a week after each posthumous organ donation is made at the hospital, at East Briggsmore Avenue and Coffee Road.

The Rodgers family, friends, hospital staff and officials from the California Transplant Donor Network attended the first ceremony, Jan. 26.

Rodgers said he choked up as he drove by the hospital last week and saw the green and white flag.

Seven months have passed since Ryan's death in what the family said was an inexplicable suicide.

Ryan earned good grades, was an avid reader and liked to play the latest video games, his father said. Rodgers sports a tattoo on his left arm with Ryan's name and the Xbox 360 logo.

Ryan graduated from La Loma Junior High School last year and was going to attend Davis High School in the fall. Rodgers said his son's suicide came without warning signs, and the family is looking into the drug he was taking for attention deficit disorder.

For five days, Ryan was unconscious at Memorial and wasn't expected to live. A representative of the California donor network respectfully approached Rodgers and his wife, Andrea, about organ donation, Greg Rodgers said.

"As the days progressed, I asked to meet with them," he said. "They walked us through the process step by step and answered our questions."

After his death, Ryan's heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and pan-creas were harvested to save the lives of patients elsewhere. The Rodgerses said they agreed because of the difficulty of obtaining organs for pediatric patients. They declined to donate his eyes and other tissue.

Christine Samuel, a donation service liaison for the California Transplant Donor Network in Modesto, said the idea for the flag raisings came from a hospital in another state that holds the ceremonies.

Memorial officials recently approved the idea and then con-tacted the Rodgers family. Hospital staff who worked with the Rodgers family were among those attending the ceremony.

"I don't think the goal of the hospital or this organization is that everyone says 'yes' to donation," Samuel said. "This is more about holding the family up and the human connection we have with one another."

In 2006, Memorial Medical Center and Doctors Medical Center of Modesto each received a Medal of Honor for Organ Donation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The award recognizes the efforts of hospitals to increase organ and tissue donations. The fed-eral government recognized Memorial in 2007 for outstanding collaboration with the donor network.

Memorial had eight donor patients in 2006 and 10 in 2007, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Greg Rodgers said he hopes some day to meet the families of patients who received Ryan's organs. "I want to let them know what kind of person Ryan was," he said.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or 578-2321.