My Son Gave His Life and Saved Others

Christine Royal lost her son Shamir to gun violence, a month shy of his 21st birthday. She shares why she made the decision to donate his organs and how giving to others has helped her throughout the healing process.

My son, Shamir Harper, was a caring person. He was very caring to his friends, his family, and really, to anyone around him.

In May 2013, Shamir was getting ready to attend Drexel University to play basketball. He was a good kid. He didn’t always make the right decisions, but he had really turned his life around. He wanted to be better than what he was. On May 22, 2013, just a month shy of his 21st birthday, Shamir died.

Woman wearing t-shirt in honor of her son
Shamir's mother, Christine, wearing a t-shirt in honor of her son

I was hearing from his coaches – everybody was fighting for him to pull through, to live. But it seemed like fate had something else in store.

I thought it was time to tell my story — because the power of healing — is in giving to others.

I remember that day, like it was yesterday. Shamir was with his cousin at his grandmother’s house and they went out that evening. I learned later that his cousin had an argument with a young man, and I don’t know why, but this particular man followed Shamir and his cousin that night.

They met up with a young lady they knew, and later on that evening, offered to walk her home. It was late, and Shamir thought it would best, because that’s the kind of man he was. The same man kept following them, but Shamir and his cousin didn’t think anything of it. They got to their destination and safely dropped off their friend.  On their way home, the man who had been following them went to shoot at his cousin and Shamir pushed him away. In doing so, Shamir got shot.

 

We all had our chance to talk to Shamir before they took him down for testing (to determine brain activity). I told him, ‘if there’s any test that I need you to pass, it’s this one.’

— Christine Royal

When I got to the hospital I was upset. I had told him before that there’s no need to be out late. That he played basketball and that was his thing, but that’s no time to be out.

Well, that quickly changed when the surgeon came to talk with me. Maybe it’s because I work at Jefferson Hospital and I am around a lot of patients, that I knew deep down the news wasn’t going to be good. The surgeon told me that my son had been shot in the head. So I asked. Is he brain dead? I decided that if he was, I wanted to give his organs to the Gift of Life Donor Program so that at least somebody might have another chance at life.

We waited until the next day. We all had our chance to talk to Shamir before they took him down for testing (to determine brain activity). I told him, “if there’s any test that I need you to pass, it’s this one.” I whispered in his ear, “I need you to show them and you can’t do it if you give up. So I need you, whatever it is – even if it’s just a little ray of hope, or light, whatever it is – you need to do it.”

It was hard, but I had to come to grips with losing my son that day because things happen for a reason. Why God chose me to deal with this I don’t know, but that’s what I had to do.

Shamir was able to help three people through organ donation. I call the Gift of Life Program every now and then and I understand that some people want to remain anonymous. I just want to know. Are they thriving? Are they OK? I just want to let them know that if they become really funny, that’s my son. If they find themselves doing something they normally wouldn’t do, that’s Shamir.

I’ve been registered as an organ donor for a long time. My mother needed a lung transplant. She received it, but unfortunately, she got septic and passed away. So I know both sides of the donor situation. I went through hoping that someone would help my mother and they did. In turn, it was the right thing for me to do to help somebody else. Even though my mother did not survive, Shamir and I could help someone else do better, and as far as I know, they have.

That brings it full circle for me. It makes me happy that Shamir and I were able to help others…live.

Editor’s Note:

Christine works at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Environmental Services. She and her colleagues connect with patients every day to ensure they are healing in a safe, welcoming and well-maintained hospital environment. On any given day, dozens of patients are impacted by the important work Christine and her colleagues undertake.

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