FARGO — For a family that lost their son last summer in a crash near Mapleton, the decision to donate his organs was hard, but it may have been the best way to honor him.
Cameron Bolton was seriously injured when a car driven by a friend was struck by a van in June 2018. He lived for several days, but when his brain activity ceased, it was decided his organs should be donated.
Nearly a year later, his father, Chris Bolton, is meeting the people who received the organs. He was recently able to hear Cameron's heart beat again — now in the chest of a 30-year-old Iowa man saved by a transplant.
"None of us were seriously thinking of doing the donation direction," Chris said, explaining that it was at first tough to go forward with the decision." (It) turned Cameron's terrible, terrible accident . . . into something that is wonderful."
In July, moments before Cameron's donated organs were used to save the lives of several other strangers, his loved ones celebrated the 22-year-old's life.
"Cameron is going to live on in many people," mother Sarah Fisher said at the time, who now serves on a Sanford donor board in Fargo and is also a speaker and ambassador for LifeSource, the organ procurement group that handled the donations.
Chris Bolton has started meeting recipients of Cameron's organs. He recently drove to Iowa from Park Rapids, Minn., to visit Jeremy French, the man who received Cameron's heart. Using a stethoscope, he was able to hear the beat of his son's heart again.
"I don't know if I would call it apprehension, but as the time drew near, I was so nervous and full of emotion," Chris said of the experience. "At first I had a hard time finding it. And then I found the heart beat, and that was amazing — knowing that was my Cameron in there. Hard to put words to explain it — a huge connection."
And Jeremy French isn't the only person Cameron's donations helped A woman in Illinois whose body had rejected a donated liver and was given just hours to live was also saved. Her family came to say goodbye, but she's still alive, thanks to the last-minute arrival of Cameron's liver.
Chris met her as well.
The tragedy has brought many families together, whose loved ones are alive today because of Cameron's decision to give.
In addition to a liver and heart, one kidney was successfully transplanted and two other patients received corneas, Fisher told The Forum in 2018. Cameron's tissues, bones and tendons could end up helping 400 to 500 recipients.
"That is all I am going to be able to see of Cameron. These folks became family," Chris said.