“Da’quan is our hero…i feel him looking down on us and on these kids and I know he’s so happy!”
After Inica Nichols lost her beloved 14-year- old son, Da’quan, in a tragic car accident, the unbearable heartache of knowing he was gone from this world almost destroyed her. But at her lowest moment, Inica, with the help of her daughter and youngest son, made a crucial decision that helped preserve his loving memory— and saved the lives of four other children!
Feeling her heart shatter into a million pieces, Inica Nichols shook her head in confusion as the doctor asked her the question again.
“Do you want to donate your son’s organs?” he said gently, empathy in his eyes.
The words seemed surreal as Inica stood in the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin on November 21, 2015, trying to process that she had just lost her precious 14-year-old son, Da’quan, in a car accident.
Thanksgiving is just days away…and Da’quan won’t be there, Inica thought as searing grief coursed through her. And suddenly she realized her beautiful, loving boy who had adored football and basketball, excelled in school and had a huge, caring heart, wouldn’t be there with her ever again.
In a haze of shock, Inica slowly turned her attention back to the doctor’s request. She’d never thought about organ donation before, yet the clock was ticking as the hospital staff explained there was only a small window of time for transplants.
Overwhelmed with emotion, Inica turned to her then 6-year-old son, J’vaun, and 12-yearold daughter, Ijah.
“I just don’t know what to do,” Inica softly wept.
It was then that her children rallied around her with hugs and a life-changing answer.
“If Da’quan’s going to help other kids, then he would be a hero,” J’vaun said, as his sister nodded.
In that moment, Inica’s crippling sorrow shifted. If my precious boy could save at least one life, then his legacy of love would live on, her heart whispered. Turning to the doctor, Inica wiped tears from her eyes. “Okay,” she choked. “We will donate.”
Inica’s decision brought miracles never before seen at that hospital. Da’quan’s organs were a match for five children who had waited a collective 544 days on the transplant lists. Over the next critical 24-hour period, transplant teams completed one heart, two liver and two kidney transplants. All the transplants were a success, but the boy who received Da’quan’s heart sadly passed away due to complications two weeks later.
Although Inica’s decision to donate felt true to what Da’quan would have wanted, in the coming months, her loss cut deeper than anything she’d ever experienced. But when the pain got so overwhelming that Inica felt she couldn’t endure it, she’d think of the four children saved by Da’quan’s gift, and a ray of hope would shine through the darkness. I’ d love to just hug them all one day, she wished. And then…that day miraculously came.
Forever a hero
On November 21, 2017, two years to the day of Da’quan’s passing, the hospital hosted a Thanksgiving feast for Inica to meet the four recipients and their families. Finally, Inica was able to look into the grateful eyes of the other parents, feel their warm hugs and see the smiling faces of the four children who were now flourishing.
They shared tears, words of love and hugs that healed Inica’s deepest hurts as nothing had been able to do before.
In return, the parents, who ached for Inica’s loss, found closure in getting to thank her for the amazing gift she’d given them. Kerri Evensen’s son, Auden, was only 4 when he received his lifesaving liver transplant. “In such a crushing moment, this family’s selfless act completely changed our family’s future,” Kerri shares. “Da’quan will continue to live on through Auden, and Inica will always be our Earth angel.”
Aliscia Parr, whose son, Emmitt, received a new kidney, agrees wholeheartedly. “We never want Da’quan to be forgotten,” she says. “He will forever be in our hearts.”
And Jean Nylund’s 18-month-old daughter, Sara, battled liver cancer until the transplant saved her life. “We thank God for Inica’s courageous choice every day,” Jean smiles. “I’ll honor her son’s gift by making sure Sara is happy, healthy and loved.”
As for Inica, the spirit of Thanksgiving was made all the more special by the strong sense that Da’quan was watching over the festivities that day.
“We miss him so much, but Da’quan is our hero,” Inica smiles through tears. “I feel him looking down on us and on these kids who got a second chance at life. He’s saying, ‘Good job, Mom!’ I just know in my heart that he’s so happy!”
“It brings our family peace and comfort to know that Da’quan’s gift of life had such an amazing outcome,” says Inica ( center) with her daughter Ijah ( left), youngest son J’vaun ( behind Inica’s arm) and Da’quan’s best friend, Capriest ( right)
Last year, on the 2-year anniversary of Da’quan’s passing, Inica and her family met the grateful parents and recipients for a Thanksgiving feast