Donor Stories

Lexie Davis         Michael Gilmore

Rachel Escue       Kiethen Taylor

Jill Daniel               Jacob Smith
(Click on photo for story)


For more than half her short life, Lexie suffered from epilepsy seizures, but she always maintained a positive attitude. Even after her death, Lexie’s positive attitude had a positive impact on so many people because she was an organ and tissue donor.

When she was 8, Lexie was diagnosed with epilepsy, and though she lived only 17 years and 17 days, she always remained positive. She was compliant, kept her doctors’ appointments and took her medication regularly. She was free-spirited and definitely a “people-person”. As beautiful as she was on the outside, she was taught that inner beauty was what really was important and made people love others. And they loved Lexie.

She enjoyed sitting Indian-style and watching television – especially movies, cartoons, family shows, horror movies and comedies. She could sit all day, but she also liked to dance – particularly belly dancing. She couldn’t cook, but enjoyed ‘doctoring up’ frozen burritos. Or, if she went out to eat, sliders and egg rolls were her favorites. An easy-going teenager, she was happy, humble and thoughtful. She was kind and considerate. She always tried to find the good in people. While attending East High School she excelled in art. Her talents also included a beautiful voice which she used to sing R & B music. She sang in her church choir. Her favorite song was “God made me just who I am.”

Often she would have nightmares that consisted of death. One particular night she had a terrible one. Her mother held her close so she could sleep. She comforted her and told her they’d enjoy a mother’s day out together later that day. Her mom told Lexie: “I love you.” And Lexie said: “I love you more.” She and her mom always said that to each other as they were very close, like best friends.

Later that same day her mother told her she was going down the street and would be home soon so they could go shopping. When her mother hung up from that call she felt something wasn’t right. She called her daughter’s name twice as sometimes Lexie would have a fading spell before a seizure. Twenty-five minutes later her mother got a call that Lexie had had a seizure. When her mom arrived home and saw the ambulance and all the people, her heart fell. She remembers feeling and knowing at that moment she lost Lexie. Lexie had had a seizure and fallen in the tub and drowned. Never left alone in case she had a seizure, in a split moment of fate and with people near her, Lexie was gone.

The winter holiday season is especially hard for her family and friends because it was Lexie’s favorite time of year. Lexie would help decorate and have a festive glow herself.

The family asked about donation because they wanted others to live as a result of the special gifts of organs and tissues from their special Lexie. She is so thoroughly missed, but her family takes comfort in knowing she helped so many others live. Back to top.


Before his senseless and tragic death, Michael Gilmore was a fun-loving, carefree, outgoing 24-year-old. The kind of person people enjoyed being around. His almost-permanent smile was a tipoff on what to expect: someone who loved to joke around and always seemed to have something funny to say.

He graduated with honors from Central High School in West Helena, Arkansas, in 2004. He had been a member of the JROTC and the Cougar football and track teams. His athletic skills earned him many awards. He had an inner drive to play and do his best always. One of his high school teachers described him as a fine student and a wonderful, spiritual person who had a keen curiosity.

After high school, Michael enrolled in Phillips Community College in his hometown and graduated with an Associate of Arts Degree. He loved to help people, especially children. In fact, he was employed as a mentor for two programs sponsored by the college: Camp Run Around (weight loss camp for kids) and Gear Up (life skills preparedness program).

After graduating from Phillips CC, he enrolled at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. His mother, Jerlene, told him to learn something he loved. Considering her advice, Physical Education seemed the perfect choice. In addition to class, Michael worked as a referee in the schools intramural sports program when he wasn’t working at Walmart.

He would have graduated in December 2010, had he not been murdered.

In April, 2010, police discovered Michael in his apartment, dead of a gunshot wound. He was airlifted to the Regional Medical Center in Memphis, Tennessee. Police are still searching for the killer. They have very few clues and no suspect. His family knows of no one who might want to harm Michael. They only know Michael is gone.

Michael kept a journal. One of his entries said, “The meaning of my life is to help others. I don’t have a doubt in my mind that I was put here to help people some way or somehow.” He lived by that. Michael and his brother and sisters often took care of their special-needs brother who was born with spina bifida. Michael would spend time with him and make him special gospel CDs which he loved.

Before Michael got his driver’s license, he told his mom he was going to be an organ donor because he wanted to help other people. “Why shouldn’t I? I won’t need them,” he told her.

Michael’s family has met his heart recipient and as well as one of his kidney recipients. They now look forward to meeting the others whose lives have been saved by his gifts of life.

One of his college professors said Michael had a sincere passion for family, the community of West Helena and a desire to become the best young man that he could be.

The family established the Michael Gilmore Memorial Scholarship in memory of their son which will provide financial assistance to male students at Phillips County Community College achieve their educational goals.

Michael will be remembered by his kind spirit and generosity. His legacy will continue to live on through the donation of his vital organs, giving others another chance at life. He is dearly missed, but will never be forgotten. Back to top.


(Comments about Rachel Escue from her mother, Jencie Escue)

Rachel seemed almost too good to be true as she was so bubbly and sweet every day. It’s still hard to believe she was killed in a car accident.

Rachel planned to go to college and then become an ophthalmologist. She ultimately wanted to visit countries and help people who could not afford good eye care. I thought she might become a veterinarian as she loved animals, especially her horse Liberty.

Rachel loved working with children and had a job teaching gymnastics only a block from home. The day of the fatal car accident she had gone there to pick up her paycheck. We had planned a family vacation to Hawaii and she wanted to have extra spending money for the trip.

Rachel was one of those rare people that was happy all of the time. She always seemed to be grinning from ear to ear. She loved cheerleading for her high school team and was so excited they became national champions! She especially enjoyed the camaraderie that came from being with her friends. She and her sister Jamie were very close and spent a lot of time together. In fact, Jamie was in the car with her when the crash occurred.

I still can’t believe Rachel is gone but I’m so thankful Jamie survived her serious injuries. The pain of losing a child is so intense; you don’t feel it when it happens to you. It really took awhile for it to hit. I’m still having a hard time even though I know Rachel is in a better place. Somehow I always knew I wouldn’t have her very long.

Following the accident, the doctors did everything they could to save her. Jamie was in surgery when we were told Rachel would not survive. When Jamie woke up we wheeled her on the stretcher to see Rachel so she could say goodbye. Then her friends and family told Rachel it was okay to let go, it was her choice. Shortly thereafter, Rachel passed away on her own.

Rachel had signed her driver’s license and told us if anything happened to her she wanted to be a donor and help other people. Even though some family members questioned her decision, I wanted to fulfill her wish.

We are so proud of Rachel. She was so giving of herself, even in her last act. While she was beautiful on the outside, she was even more beautiful on the inside. I feel our red haired angel watches over us. It was her choice to be a donor. I want to tell her story and let others know that organ donation also made it easier for us after losing her. We know she lives on in the recipients she saved. It’s hard to describe the special way you feel about what she did. Rachel saved five lives with her organs. What a giver. Back to top.


Kiethen Taylor was a happy, outgoing and energetic 7 year-old. He was always climbing and jumping off sofas, balconies – anything he could! In fact, he began climbing out of his baby bed when he was only six months old.  He couldn’t walk yet but he could climb! He loved to dance and ride bicycles with his four older brothers: Thomas, Curlandrius, Christian and Theron.  He smiled constantly and always seemed  happy.

As a second grade student, reading was his favorite subject. His teacher, Ms. Shirley Jeans said he was very smart and did well in school. He had an unusual habit of reading and whistling at the same time.

Kiethen’s mom, Sharon says: “He was so responsible and independent for such a young person. He could cook noodles and hot dogs. He actually sorted and washed his own clothes; even washed the dishes. He always wanted to help.”

In September 2008 the family enjoyed a dinner with many of Kiethen’s favorite foods – spaghetti, potato salad and chicken. They went to church as they often did and were on their way home when the tragic accident occurred. A woman had an epilepsy seizure and blacked out. She rear-ended the Taylor’s car going 80 miles per hour while their car was at a standstill. Kiethen was in the back seat and was killed instantly.

In their darkest hour, his parents, Sharon and Kiethen Taylor, Sr. said yes to donation and Kiethen became a hero at age seven by saving lives.

When Kiethen’s parents were asked about their decision for their son to be an organ donor, Sharon said: “Kiethen was always giving and helping people. He would frequently visit our neighbor who was physically challenged and try to help him. Even though he was young and small, one time he helped by painting a room for him. He always wanted to help. So we knew by giving the Gift of Life, Kiethen would be helping others in his death like he did in his short life.”

A ceremony was held in May at Shady Grove Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee. Kiethen’s classmates planted a crepe myrtle tree in memory of their fellow student and to honor him for being an organ and tissue donor and saving lives.

It is said that kids who climb early in life usually do something when they grow up. While Kiethen will not have the opportunity to do that, he will not be forgotten. His last climb went straight to Heaven.

Sharon says she is at peace and that organ donation has helped her to better accept the loss of her son. Back to top.


Very few people are fortunate enough to earn a living doing what they truly love. Jill Daniel was one of the few. She had immense respect for and total devotion to her profession as a nurse. She had terrific skills and experience in ICU, Cardiac ICU, Neurotrauma ICU, cardiology and home health care. She had the emotional strength and knowledge to handle the most challenging situations. Her colleagues stated that she could transition from a very traumatic situation and immediately be compassionate to a patient who was anxious, or had questions or who just wanted to talk about their disease or condition. They would talk and she would listen while holding their hand. She had excellent communication skills and knew how to relate to her patients. She understood the pains and suffering of patients and could provide comfort and sympathy. Jill was filled with kindness and empathy.

In her personal life, Jill married Tad one month from the day they met. While unusual, it worked for them. They were happily married for 20 years and had three children: Charlie, Anna and Melanie. Jill had said the family they created was her greatest accomplishment. Her love, commitment and devotion to family was unmistakable.

Jill was described as beautiful, giving, generous, fun-loving, passionate, funny, bold, vivacious, devoted, dependable and wonderful. She could make anyone laugh if not with her wit certainly with her laugh as it was truly contagious.

She loved to read mysteries, work crossword puzzles and garden. What a coincidence that roses were her favorite flower to grow.

In September 2009 Jill complained of a migraine headache. Sadly, it progressed and she suffered several irreversible cerebral hemorrhages. How ironic that the team she usually worked with in the ICU ended up taking care of her! There was no question Jill wanted to be an organ donor. Tad said they often sat on their back porch and talked and listened to music. She would bring up organ donation a lot. She often told him that if anything happened to her, she wanted to be sure they used anything and everything they could from her. She always wanted to help save other people. And she saved so many by being and organ and tissue donor!

Jill was always the ‘life of any gathering’. She had such a passion for life and was so compassionate during her life. She lived life on purpose. She was a gift of life and gave the gift of life. Back to top.


Jacob grew up in Millington, Tennessee, and would have graduated from Millington High School. He had just attended an open house at the Baptist School of Nursing and was excited about becoming a student there in the fall. However his life was tragically cut short in a car crash.

According to his mom Cindy Smith, Jacob cared deeply about taking care of other people since he was a little boy. He talked about becoming a nurse and especially wanted to take care of children. He told his mom that with a nursing degree he would be able to go anywhere in the world to work helping and caring for others. He felt that was his life’s mission. For a young man he had a lot of depth and compassion.

Jacob was a hard worker and always tried his best. When he was 14 years old he got a job after school as a dishwasher at a local restaurant. Even though he had other opportunities, he stayed and worked his way up there as he was loyal. After all, he told his mom, they gave him his first job. He saved up enough money and bought his own car. In school he was in the National Honor Society, a trusted office worker, and had a close group of friends that he loved very much.

The subject of donation was something the Smith family had discussed since the kids were young. They all agreed that given the opportunity to be a donor they would…Why would you not? You have a chance to truly change someone else’s life. What better way to leave your mark than to give someone else another life. According to Cindy the minute the doctor told them he was brain-dead Jacob’s dad came over to me and said: “You know what Jacob would want.” I said: “Absolutely. I knew without a doubt that he wanted to be a donor. Cindy said: “I was there when he was born and his heart started and I was with him, along with his Pappaw, in the trauma unit when it stopped. It was the most life altering event I’ve ever experienced other than when my precious children were born. When I left the Med that sad day, I hurt so much and my arms were so empty knowing that I would never hold him again. But thanks to the Mid-South Transplant Foundation, our hearts will heal knowing that Jacob lives on blessing his recipients’ lives.”

The accident happened one night when Jacob was driving just one mile from his home. He went around a curve and his outside tires went off the road. When he overcompensated he lost control of the vehicle, the car hit a telephone pole and turned over multiple times. To make matters worse, he was not wearing his seatbelt.  Following the crash he was airlifted by helicopter to the Regional Medical Center at Memphis.

“I always tell everyone –write down your wishes. Make sure your family knows how you fell about donation. That way they will have no doubts. Make that decision to save someone else.” says Cindy Smith. “Jacob’s legacy lives on as he helped save five people with his solid organs and dozens more with his tissue. Their lives are so much better because of him. Jacob wanted to help other people and he did in life and death.” Back to top.