SHAWNEE, Okla. — In a heartbeat, someone’s entire world can change forever. It’s something most claim to understand yet never seem prepared to face.
But — thanks to a moment of forethought — one Oklahoma man was able to alter the future of many with his own.
In August, a young electrician from Mustang, Oklahoma, drove himself to the hospital in Lawton — throwing up and head aching. He didn’t know it would be the last time he would suffer pain.
Within a few moments, an aneurysm had taken Edward James (E.J.) Bolt III from this world; he was just 36 years old — leaving behind his teen son, Rylan. But even after E.J.’s death, he managed to change the world for some.
Shawnee couple Ed and Phyllis Bolt are mourning the loss of their son, but they are finding solace in the fact that before he died, he chose to become an organ donor; that choice is now changing — and potentially saving — the lives of several strangers in need of transplants.
Both longtime registered donors, the two said they are thankful to see the benefits of his decision.
“I can remember E.J. calling me to tell me he had renewed his drivers license and that he decided to be an organ donor. I was really glad to hear that and told him so,” Ed said. “As his father, I really hoped I would never see that decision acted upon, but we can’t control what life throws at us.”
Toward the end of September, the couple received a letter from Life Share — a group that coordinates organ donations. In it was a report of E.J.’s contributions:
• E.J.’s gift provided a new heart to a father in his 50s from Nebraska. He is continuing in his recovery.
• E.J. provided two people with the opportunity to enjoy life without the constraints of dialysis treatments. One of his kidneys was transplanted into a male in his thirties. Prior to the transplant he had been on dialysis for six years. He is in good condition and continues to recover. E.J.’s other kidney was transplanted into a young female child.
• E.J. provided a new liver to a female in her forties. She looks forward to returning to work following her recovery.
• Finally, E.J. provided new lungs to a male in his twenties in Florida. He is in great condition and he is recovering.
The Bolts lit up as they shared stories of their son’s life and offered a glimpse of his personality.
“He made it his mission to entertain everyone,” Ed said. “He was a constant jokester — the class clown.”
He said E.J. didn’t know a stranger and showed no fear.
They said they never stopped being surprised by his antics.
Phyllis said E.J. joked so much it was difficult to know when he was serious.
“You just never knew with him,” she said.
E.J. wasn’t just full of funny surprises. Ed said he was constantly revealing sides of himself they never saw before.
“He played the guitar and was learning to play the fiddle,” Phyllis said.
Ed added that E.J. — who liked to sing karaoke but wouldn’t perform it in public — recently shared videos of himself belting out country tunes on the karaoke app, Smule.
“I posted one on Facebook because it was really good,” Ed said, “then he asked me why I did that.”
In the end, E.J. allowed his performance to remain online.
After his son’s death, Ed raced to secure copies of those videos — at first simply enjoyed, but now final mementos he treasures.
While Ed and Phyllis comfort themselves with photos and memories, they find peace knowing that parts of E.J. continue on as a godsend to others.
The case of the lung recipient was a little unusual, Ed said.
“I was told that the lungs typically go separately to two people,” he said. “I guess this young man must have been in dire need of both of them.”
Phyllis said she is praying E.J.’s organ recipients live long and flourish; the couple understands the precious value behind those new beginnings.
“As bad as this was for us, it has been equally as good for all of these people and their families who got another chance at a long and heathy life,” Ed said.
He encourages everyone to consider checking the organ donor box while renewing their driver licenses.
“The impact it can have on a large group of other people in need is amazing,” he said. “Life Share told us that if we include the tissue donations E.J. made, the number of people he will benefit could be more than 50.”
The Bolts are now in the process of reaching out to the recipients of E.J.’s organs.
E.J. leaves behind three siblings — the youngest, a brother, Travis, and two sisters named Jessica. One of them — referred to as Jessie — is his older sibling from his father Ed’s previous marriage. Younger sister Jessica (and Travis) were born to Phyllis during a previous marriage.
Vicky O. Misa is a reporter for The Shawnee (Okla.) News-Star.