LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The tragic death of a Grand Lake teen one year ago left a family in a whirlwind of emotions. On top of coping with their daughter's death, they had the responsibility of making one decision that could affect the lives of people they had never even met.
At 16 years old, Lacey Broussard's future was bright. Her mother, Rachelle Hebert says, "She loved her family, friends and she was just an awesome child." Step-father Myles Hebert adds, "Lacey was active, exciting...she was fun to be around."
A small-town girl to the core, Lacey loved her tight-knit community and the life it offered. "She was involved in softball, sports, she liked to fish, she liked to hunt," says Myles, "If we hooked on to the boat, she was getting her pole...she was coming with us."
And like many teens, when Lacey got her driver's license, a new excitement came along with this next step to independence. When she showed off her license to her step-father, he could have never imagined how the words of that simple conversation would forever be etched in his memory. "I knew if you were going to be a donor, there was a little heart that's on there and it says donor underneath and I asked her," says Myles, "'You know that means? You're gonna be donating if something happens to you and they can save your organs.' She said 'Yeah, I knew that. I understand.'"
That was the only conversation Lacey ever had about the little heart on her license. Then, in December of 2007, tragedy struck. "I got a call late in the evening that there was an accident," says Rachelle, "the ambulance was there. We ended up following the ambulance to the hospital and from there it just went downhill."
Lacey's parents were told that there was nothing else the medical staff could do to save their daughter. It was just a few moments later that they would have the chance to save other lives by carrying out Lacey's wishes to be an organ donor. "I knew she would be saving different lives," says Rachelle, "people that really needed organs. Even though I was losing one life - somebody else was gaining theirs."
Seven other people gained a new life that week because of Lacey, including Barb Woolley of Austin, Texas who was suffering from a life-threatening lung condition. "It just got worse at an alarming rate," says Barb, "probably every two months, I would lose lung function and get worse and towards the end I could hardly even walk."
When Barb was finally put on the lung transplant list in November of 2007, she was told it could take up to a year to find a match. One month later, though, at a routine check-up, she couldn't believe the news. "I swear it wasn't more than five minutes, the nurse came in and said 'you can't go home, we have a match, we have lungs for you,'" says Barb.
That day, Barb had her life-saving lung transplant and awoke for the first time in months without being hooked up to an oxygen machine. "Getting these lungs for me, was really a second chance at life. I was at the end," says Barb.
For Lacey's family and Barb's, knowing who was on the other side of each story was something that they wanted to discover. "They had a part of Lacey in them and that we would always be a part," says Rachelle. Barb says her worst fear was that she was never going to know who the lungs came from.
After months of writing one another and talking on the phone, these families woven together by the life and death of Lacey were finally able to meet. "It's just overwhelming," says Rachelle.
"They're a part of Lacey," says Myles, "they're a part of the family now."
Adding light to these families' darkest times.
"I was to the point where I was doing nothing and now I feel like there's nothing I can't do," says Barb.
*Lacey's parents have also been able to meet the woman who received Lacey's heart. They hope to one day have a relationship with all of the families who were touched by their daughter's donation.