Donor mom advocates for organ donation in honor of her daughter’s gift of life: ‘I didn’t know about the gift donors give their families’

Danielle sporting bright sunnies and her signature smile.
Ben and Danielle Eger on their wedding day.
Danielle and her two young boys. She loved being a wife and a mom.

“Donor mom … it’s who I am now,” explains Diana Davis. Her eldest daughter, Danielle Davis Eger, passed away at the age of 30 from a brain aneurysm in 2019. Danielle was a registered organ donor. 

Diana describes her daughter as a thoughtful, tender-hearted person who cared about others. She shares that when Danielle was in the fifth grade, her school held a special event and asked parents to share something that represents a characteristic of their child. Diana brought a picture of a dove because Danielle was known to be the peacemaker in her family.

As an adult, Danielle loved her life as a wife and a mom of two young boys who kept her busy. She enjoyed knitting gloves, hats and blankets for friends and family. Danielle also loved Disney movies — Peter Pan and the Pirates of the Caribbean series were her favorites.

Diana shares that her daughter had a quirky sense of humor — she laughed at ‘dad jokes.’ She was also a chronic regifter, which Diana teased her about many times, but Danielle was simply more concerned about the needs of others. The neighbor told Diana that Danielle used to pack her a lunch when they would spend the day together.

Danielle’s husband was in the military and frequently traveled for training. They had recently moved to Olympia, Wash. when Danielle collapsed in their new home. At the time, her husband was out of state, and she was home alone with her two young sons who called for help.

Diana and her son in law arrived at the hospital around the same time, after what Diana describes as the “longest flight ever.”

Life-saving measures were underway, and the family remained hopeful that Danielle could pull through. As testing continued, Diana said that it soon became clear that her daughter would not recover. She prepared herself for what would come next. She expected to be asked about organ donation, and after the trauma she experienced, she felt defensive. But to her surprise, the person who sat down with the family to have that conversation framed organ donation as a powerful and meaningful opportunity for healing. They didn’t feel hopeless anymore.

“They were so good at sharing the miracle that could come from this,” says Diana. “My mind shifted … What is God trying to accomplish out of this? Where’s the good?”

Danielle’s husband was the legal next of kin. He was in shock, not prepared to make any decisions, and he blamed himself. Fortunately, Danielle made it easy for him — she had already made donation her choice.

“I never knew what I didn’t know about the process, the power of hope and healing it brings. I didn’t know about the gift donors give their families,” says Diana. “I wasn’t a registered organ donor, but I am now.”

Diana is in close communication with Danielle’s liver recipient. She also met her daughter’s lung recipient last summer, whom she later learned had been on the transplant waiting list for only a day. She shares that the recipient families are grateful, but sometimes feel as if they have survivor’s guilt.

“It’s okay for you to be okay,” she shares. “I appreciate this connection; helping each other heal. I want them to have a healthy, happy life.”

Diana continues to advocate for the gift of life. She urges people to register as donors, and more importantly, to make sure their families know what they want. “Don’t leave them with that decision,” she says.

Timm, Danielle’s liver recipient, with his wife Janelle.
L-R: Danielle’s parents, Diana and Mike Davis; her husband, Ben Eger; her lung recipient, Phil, and his wife Becky, at their first meet-up to honor Danielle.