Missionary’s Final Act of Service as an Organ Donor

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The Palmer family together at Woods Cross
Source: deseretnews.com

Matthew Palmer was called to serve in Madagascar and just 10 months into his service died from a condition similar to that of a brain aneurysm.

His family and friends remember Palmer as a talented pianist, ambitious with plans to go to medical school, and that he was devoted to serving others.

Matthew Palmer before serving his mission in Madagascar.
Matthew Palmer before serving his mission in Madagascar.

“We talked to him at Christmas and we talked to him on Mother’s Day, and those were very uplifting, just to know that he was doing OK,” Palmer’s older brother Nick Palmer said. “None of us knew on Mother’s Day, that would be the last time we’d ever talk to him.”

He died Thursday June 26, in Johannesburg, South Africa with his parents by his side. About a month ago he started experiencing headaches and was treated in Madagascar. When they persisted he had scans taken and was then flown to Union Hospital in South Africa where doctors discovered internal bleeding in his brain.

Doctors in South Africa asked the parents if they would be willing to donate Matthew’s organs, something that Matthew himself had talked about before he left on his mission. Being an organ donor was a topic Matthew had discussed with his parents prior to his mission; he even had a donation notification on his driver’s license.

His parents agreed to donate his organs and tissue and the South African doctors reported that this last act of service by Matthew would help as many as 80 African adults and children, some in desperate need of transplants.

Joel Newman, the assistant Director of Communications at United Network for Organ Sharing in Virginia, said that a donation such as Palmer’s is something that goes above and beyond what is expected.

“The generosity of anyone who agrees to organ and tissue donation provides the greatest possibility to return a fellow human being to life and function and we applaud everyone who does that,” Newman said

The generosity of anyone who agrees to organ and tissue donation provides the greatest possibility to return a fellow human being to life and function and we applaud everyone who does that

The Deseret News reports that Matthew’s service-oriented life started long before he entered the mission field. A boyhood friend, Tom Smith, 21, who just returned from his own mission, recalled his friend’s willingness to lend a helping hand. “During the winter we would all get together and shovel everybody’s walks who hadn’t already been shoveled until they were all done,” Smith said.

His sister, Jennifer Wright, remarked on Matthew’s desire to serve and his future plans in the medical field,

“He loved serving people and where he was even wanting to go into the medical field, it was just more of a way for him to continue that dream,” Wight said. And when asked if Matthew would have wanted his body donated she said,

“It kind of gives me goose bumps. It’s amazing that he was able to do that. I think that’s exactly what he wanted to do if that was his last act on Earth.”

The family returns home from South Africa today and the neighborhood has made sure that the Palmers know they are supported in this time of grief. Tuesday, the neighborhood gathered at the Palmer home to place yellow ribbons and yellow roses on trees and mailboxes throughout the neighborhood as a symbolic gesture of support. The group also planned to wrap yellow ribbons along the route the Palmers will take home from the airport. According to Brent Page, Matthew’s uncle and close neighbor, yellow is a symbol of support.

“The yellow ribbon is a sign of welcome home, of support, and that’s what this neighborhood is,” Page said. “We support one another, whatever the cause may be.”

As Matthew’s parents are welcomed home by the bright yellow ribbons, surely Matthew has received his own regal homecoming.