Don Weigand, the sculptor behind the new artwork in St. Bernards Prayer Garden, shows the inspiration behind his art dedicated to the Mid-America Transplant organization.

JONESBORO — It was an accident that took the life of her son 12 years ago last December, Rosemary Latanich said.

“A week before his 26th birthday, he had a freak accident. It was around Christmas. He was wrestling with his friends and sustained a head injury.”

When her son arrived at the hospital, Latanich said he was in a coma.

“When the neurosurgeon came in, he told us we would be lucky if he ever regained consciousness,” she said. “Not long after that, his organs began to shut down.”

Latanich said it was not what she expected to hear.

“I think when he responded ‘yes’ at the DMV, that he did not really think about the impact he was going to have,” she said. “My son is a hero. I pray he knows when he left us, he did something awesome.”

In addition to her son’s contribution to improve the lives of others, Latanich said his gift also led her to learn more about what organ donation does for other people.

“I donate my time to Mid-America Transplant,” she added, noting she has become very involved in the organization. “I use this as my healing process.”

During the past 12 years she has helped with tasks for the organization.

“I went to St. Louis and made blankets,” she said. “I slowly just began to make myself available.”

On Wednesday morning, Latanich and her husband Gary were in the Prayer Garden at St. Bernards Medical Center for the unveiling of a sculpture to honor organ donors who, while losing their lives, thought enough ahead to save others.

Micheal Givens, administrator at St. Bernards Medical Center, said the unveiling of the sculpture was a blessing for the health care system.

“… To be able to recognize those who have made the extreme sacrifice,” he said. “Today there are many patients waiting for transplants, due to the medical conditions they have, and organ donation is the only hope they have to be able to continue to live.”

Last year, Givens said there were six parents and families who opted to donate.

Don Weigand, a sculptor from Chesterfield, Mo., was in attendance Wednesday morning to reveal the artwork placed on the garden wall.

Weigand said the sculpture is a portion of the original work called the Donor Memorial Monument, at the Mid-America Transplant facility in St. Louis.

Weigand said the sculpture installed at St. Bernards is a small replica of the original.

The design of the original sculpture began in 2003. Weigand said it was a challenge.

“How do you depict a donor family. That is so painful, but rewarding, passing on the gift of life,” he said.

Weigand said he finally found his inspiration from a photograph he took in 2005 at a Candlelight March Ceremony in St. Louis.

“This was an event with both donor families and recipients in attendance,” he said. “They are toasting with candles to life.”

The piece represents that when it comes to life, it doesn’t matter what role a person plays; we all leave the earth the same way, he said.

“It’s not about male or female, black or white. It’s about the human soul,” he said.

Latanich said she will continue to be an active part of the Mid-American Transplant Association.

“For me, meeting other donor families and working with other families has helped me along on my journey,” she said. “We can laugh, cry and hold on to each other. It’s been a source of encouragement and strength.”