Finding hope after loss: an alumna’s story of organ donation

In one of Lauren Stewart’s most recent tweets, she posted the quote: “Love is stronger than fear; life is stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. Trust that the risk of love is always worth taking.”

Lauren’s fiancé, champion sprint car driver Bryan Clauson, passed away in August 2016 from injuries sustained in a crash during a USAC midget race.

Bryan was an organ donor, and Lauren says he was able to save five lives and heal even more with his organ and tissue donation. Shortly after his death, Bryan’s family started a campaign to encourage others to become organ donors, as well.

Their original goal was to get 200 people to sign up. 200 because that was Bryan’s goal in 2016 – to run a schedule with 200 races.

“We reached 200 people in 15 minutes,” Lauren explained. “The organ donation team in Nebraska said their typical campaigns get about 100 people. I woke up the next morning, and thought – let’s add a zero. It just took off from there.”

Since August, nearly 6,000 people have signed up to be registered organ donors through the Bryan Clauson Race to Save Lives campaign.

According to the Indiana Donor Network, "more than 120,000 people nationwide are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants."

The Indiana Donor Network's Driven2SaveLives campaign encourages everyone to "Be Like Bryan" and register to be an organ donor. 

“Every single donor has the potential to save eight lives," explained Lauren. "That means Bryan indirectly is going to save nearly 48,000 lives. That’s huge.”

And that's not the only reason Lauren is a strong proponent of organ donation.

“There’s so much more to organ donation you don’t hear about,” said Lauren, who received her marketing degree from Kelley Indianapolis in 2014. “The fact that Bryan was an organ donor allowed us to have more time with him. It gave us three additional days with him in the hospital that we wouldn’t have had. Bryan’s sister wasn’t there when he was admitted to the hospital, so it gave her time to get there to be with family.

“The organ donation team was incredible, and they explained from the beginning everything they were doing,” added Lauren. 

“We have a recording and a printout of Bryan’s heartbeat, and they linked us with a company that made us jewelry with his fingerprint."