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She Lives on Through Her Gift of Life

“Her life is gone here, but let's go save others.”

– Minerva Coker

Minerva Coker will forever remember her daughter’s warm smile and how happy and full of life she was.

A beautician, Ayania loved styling her mother’s hair and painting her nails.

“She made me feel beautiful,” Coker said. “She always made me feel good about myself.”

Tragically, Ayania, 20, suffered a gunshot wound Dec. 5 while driving through a southeast Fort Wayne neighborhood. She was transported to Lutheran Hospital with life-threatening injuries. The next day, doctors declared Ayania brain dead.

Coker, who has fostered more than 100 children since the 1990s, took Ayania in when she was 4 months old and adopted her at age 8. She lost a pre-teen son to cancer and raised two other children now in their 30s.

She initially asked that Ayania be taken off mechanical support. Then, a discussion about organ donation began.

“Ayania’s adoptive brother and sister were in the room and told Minerva that Ayania should be an organ donor,” said Tracy Cox, an Indiana Donor Network family advocate who counsels donor families and those considering organ donation. “Ayania’s sister even said she knew someone who needed a kidney. We discussed how critically important organ donation is to save lives. I answered their questions. Minerva eventually agreed that Ayania should be a donor hero.”

That decision wasn’t easy, Coker said.

“I just thought Ayania had been through enough,” she said. “But everyone with Indiana Donor Network was so very nice. They showed a lot of compassion toward me and my family and educated us.”

Once the decision was made, family, friends and loved ones gathered at Lutheran for Ayania’s honor walk. As her bed was wheeled down a long hallway lined with hospital staff silently paying their respects, the large gathering followed. A video of the walk was shared on Facebook.

“So many people reacted to the video,” Coker said. “So many in the African American community supported our decision to donate Ayania’s organs and began to discover and discuss organ donation. It really opened their eyes.”

Ayania saved the lives of a 22-year-old woman with the gift of her liver and a 64-year-old woman with the gift of her lungs.

Providing a better life for children like Ayania has been Coker’s calling, she said. Now, Ayania has provided a better life for others, also.

“She lives on through her gift of life,” Coker said. “That means so much to me. That comforts me.”

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