As she stared into the face of death, the mother-of-four hoped to give those in need the gift of life.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on January 23, 2020. It has since been updated.
Kathleen Thorson had a lot to lose when she fell fatally ill. She and her husband Jesse had just welcomed a sixth member into their family-of-five days ago and Kathleen had barely seen her heart's fill of the new baby boy. However, when tragedy struck at what should've been one of the happiest times in her life, the mother-of-four was thinking about the greater good. As she stared into the face of death, Kathleen hoped to give those in need the gift of life and in doing so, became a 1 in a million organ donor.
The new mother donated 12 of her organs—including her heart and lungs— to other patients in need following her death, according to a GoFundMe campaign set up for Kathleen, Jesse, and their children Danny, Grace, James, and the new baby Teddy. Five days later, she was rushed to the emergency room after suffering a devastating intracerebral hemorrhage and despite their best efforts and several surgeries, Kathleen's doctors knew she wouldn't make it.
"Kathleen's condition deteriorated to a point that she could no longer survive. As was her wish, we are doing everything we can for her to be the prayed-for miracle of life for certain others in need of organ donations," wrote Richard Stubbs, the organizer of the GoFundMe campaign on January 8, 2020. "There aren't many words to be said except that we love her, and we will miss her with every breath we take. Through all of this hardship, her love, life, and magic are still felt," he added.
Kathleen's dying wish came true when it was revealed that she "qualified as a viable donor for all of her organs." Updating the campaign on January 11, 2020, Stubbs wrote, "The nurse told Jesse the chances that someone is a candidate of this magnitude is less than 1 in a million. But anyone who knew Kathleen already knew that. We are so pleased to announce that Kathleen will be able to provide the prayed for miracle for nearly a dozen individuals who are waiting anxiously for an organ donation."
"We would happily do anything it took to bring Kathleen back to us, but we are so grateful that someone else’s mother, daughter, father, friend, brother, sister, son or love will be coming home thanks to Kathleen’s ultimate sacrifice. We love her, and we miss her. We always will. May God watch over her heart as it continues to pound more rapidly at the sight of children playing, may he fill her lungs as they bring the scent of lavender fields to another, and may the angels in heaven rejoice as they receive Kathleen home," he added.
Thorson's story soon caught the attention of actress Kristen Bell who revealed on Instagram that her baby line HelloBello is giving the grieving family a year's supply of wipes and diapers. "Before she passed earlier this month, Kathleen said she wanted to save as many lives as possible and donated an almost unheard of 12 organs, including her heart and lungs. Jesse - our thoughts are with your family during this unimaginably difficult time. Sending peace and love your way," Bell wrote on Instagram.
The GoFundMe campaign raised a total of $130,385—far surpassing the original target of $50,000. It even passed their stretch goal of $95,000 which will help the Thorson family's medical costs, funeral expenses, and allow Jesse to spend most of his time with his children. Stubbs revealed that the extra money raised would go towards building a garden in the family's backyard. "At this point, every little bit extra will help Jesse pay off bills and work toward the dreams he and Kathleen had of making a beautiful garden in their backyard. This was to be a space where Kathleen could teach her children about her love of gardening, invite friends over for fun events, and live her 'hobbit' dreams," he wrote.