Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Sara Romero and Michael Himes, with contributions from Petty Officer 2nd Class Jetta H. Disco.
Fireman Michael Bovill, 23, died nearly three years ago in an off-duty motorcycle accident while serving at Coast Guard Station Eatons Neck in Eatons Neck, N.Y. At the same time Roxanne Watson, 55, lay in a critical care unit for 78 days awaiting a heart for transplant at Montefiore Hospital in New York City. Bovill’s devotion to saving lives took a new turn as Watson successfully received his heart and became an ardent advocate for organ donor enrollment in New York State.
Transplant Recipients International Organization held a day of remembrance and candle lighting ceremony to honor and pay tribute to donor families and their recipients during the donor remembrance ceremony at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City on Saturday, April 6, 2013. Watson and her son, Kellen Wingate, presented their own story, along with other recipients wishing to honor their donors.
Watson is a heart recipient, volunteer and spokesperson for the New York Organ Donor Network. This network generates awareness and enrollment at venues throughout New York, including colleges, DMV locations and sporting events. Watson unites a diverse team consisting of donor and recipient families, volunteers, state and local leadership, public and private institutions, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard to promote Bovill’s legacy.
“It is our job as recipients, to tell our story for our donors,” said Watson, “As Michael gave me his ‘gift of life,’ and we honor him everyday by signing up as many people to donate as we can.”
Bovill’s family was one of many donor families present at the remembrance ceremony. His mother Jilanye Bovill offered a unique perspective on the importance of having the organ donor box marked on your ID.
“When the paramedics found Michael the first identification they saw was his military ID and that the organ donor box was checked,” said Bovill’s mother. “It was because of that, they were about to notify me, get my approval [to release his organs to the donor list], and he was able to save five lives.”
Every member of the Coast Guard has a unique story about why they joined. Simply put, Bovill’s story was to ‘save lives,’ and he had the opportunity to do that in both life and death.
“When the doctors asked my parents if Michael was an organ donor they replied without hesitation, ‘Of course!’” said Mandy Bovill, Michael’s sister. “Saving lives was the reason why Michael joined the Coast Guard. For him, being an organ donor was not a choice that he had to even think about.”
At the ceremony another vital player on Watson’s team, New York State Senator David Carlucci, announced the passing of Lauren’s Law. Lauren’s Law, named after 12-year-old heart transplant recipient Lauren Shields, will require driver’s license applicants over the age of 18 to answer whether they would like to join the state organ donor list. Currently, answering the question is optional.
His devotion to duty, passed on through Watson’s commitment to organ donation awareness, continues to inspire and grow to this day.
“I show Michael’s picture and I explain to them that he saved five lives, I put a face to it, once you talk to them, they get it,” said Watson.
Bovill’s memory lives on at Coast Guard Station Eatons Neck.
“We are reminded of his service with the memorials his shipmates established and remain in contact with his family,” said Chief Warrant Officer Stephen Pollack, commanding officer of Station Eatons Neck. His Legacy now lives on the foresight and selfless gift of life.”
“Although most of Michael’s shipmates have moved on to service around the world, they haven’t forgotten what a model Coast Guardsman and friend he was,” said Pollack. “I’m sure when he served here that he didn’t realize he was going to be the one teaching us.”
In loving memory of Mike. “Mike, you are always in our thoughts and forever in our hearts. We are proud that you were able to help others through your donation.” – The Bovill family. For more information on organ donation, visit Hate the Wait.