A Story About How a Tragedy Took One Life but an Organ Donation Saved AnotherSeptember 6, 2022
Abby Gray Shares her Family’s Journey in a Newly Released Children’s Book
LifeGift’s Ambassador of Hope volunteer Abby Gray, wife of Reid Gray, a liver recipient, has written a children’s book about her family’s organ transplantation journey. The book was inspired by the true story of Clayton Sparks, an incredibly thoughtful and big-hearted young man. This heartwarming story shares how this donor hero’s compassion and ultimate gift of life provided so many others with hope.
A tragedy in Colorado more than three years ago has brought a group of people closer than they ever could have imagined. Clayton Sparks was 24 when he was declared brain dead. A skiing accident took his life but saved another.
In Houston, Reid Gray was desperately waiting for a liver. His wife, Abby Gray was 21 weeks pregnant with their twins.
Reid had been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. When his doctor asked if he had other health issues, high liver enzymes were mentioned. The doctor made a connection — patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a rare disease of the bile ducts, often also have ulcerative colitis. With PSC, scarring occurs in bile ducts, which eventually become blocked, resulting in bile accumulation that damages the liver.
The two families hadn’t ever met, but they did share a mutual friend. When the Sparks found out about Reid’s liver disease, they saw it as an opportunity for Clayton’s life to carry on.
Through a direct liver donation, there’s only a 25% chance of a match. But that small chance was enough.
Thousands of people are waiting on the transplant list, but not everyone is a donor. Clayton also was able to help over 80 other people through donations of his corneas, tissue and other organs.
Although Clayton’s liver gave Reid his life back, it left a void that his parents could never fill. The Grays honored Clayton’s sacrifice by naming their children Oliver Clayton and Kaylee June. To keep Clayton’s story alive, Abby authored a book about him called “Clayton Sparks Leaves His Mark.” Abby is a LifeGift Ambassador of Hope, and through volunteering, she was able to make the connections to make this book come to fruition.
“We tell the kids that Clayton is daddy’s superhero,” Abby Gray shares.
“We have been blessed to hear so many amazing stories about Clayton Sparks, my husband’s donor, since we became connected through the gift of life,” says Gray. “I wanted to be able to inspire other children to be as kind as Clayton was, and also honor the gift that he gave our family. One day ‘Clayton Sparks Leaves His Mark’ just came to me. I love that it not only opens the conversation of organ donation within families, but it also can inspire children to look for ways to help those around them every day.”
LifeGift has taken delivery of more than 500 signed copies of Gray’s book with the goal of distributing at upcoming community events in all three of LifeGift’s service regions. Kevin Myer, LifeGift president and chief executive officer and Leslie Meigs, LifeGift community engagement specialist, recently met Abby along with her family at LifeGift’s offices in Houston to accept the book delivery.
For more information on donation and how to register to be an organ, tissue and eye donor, click here. Part of the proceeds from Clayton’s book will go to the Clayton Sparks Memorial Foundation. For more information on Clayton’s book, click here.
To read more about this story as featured in The Huntsville Item, please click here.