My name is Rhonda Porta. I just retired from teaching in May of this year. My husband, Colin, and I live in Gonzales, LA, where I was born and raised.
We have three sons and daughter-in-laws, Ben and Kelly, Jake and Mandy, and Tobey and Christy who are the parents of our precious little two-year-old granddaughter, Bella. We also have a daughter named Alexis.
Alexis is our only daughter and the youngest of our four children. From the time she was a small child, Alexis enjoyed living her life to the fullest. She played the piano, took dancing lessons, danced on her school’s dance team, participated in softball, basketball, and track. She belonged to many school clubs, and was an honor student. She was very outgoing, upbeat, and witty. She especially loved hanging out with her many friends. On June 18, 2001 after spending the day working at her aunt’s dentist office, attending play practice at the community theater, and spending the evening with a group of friends, Alexis wrapped her car around a tree.
After arriving at the hospital, we were told that the cause of Alexis’ accident was a massive rupture of a cerebral aneurysm. Knowing that Alexis had only hours to live, her dad and I asked if we could donate her organs. We had never discussed organ donation with Alexis, but we knew that she loved life and that she would have wanted to give the gift of life to others.
On June 19, 2001, the day Alexis was pronounced brain dead, we heard of LOPA for the very first time. We were able to donate Alexis’ heart, two kidneys, pancreas, liver, corneas, and thighbones. Since that time we have had contact with three of Alexis’ recipients. What a blessing!
Since Alexis’ death, I have become involved in several organizations. I do volunteer work for Aneurysm Outreach, which provides free abdominal aneurysm screenings and promotes aneurysm research. I serve on the board of the Baton Rouge chapter of The Compassionate Friends, a support group for parents who have lost children. I also work with the grief support group at my church. All of these organizations have provided me with comfort and helped me to heal. However, LOPA has been the organization dearest to my heart.
My family and I decided that the best way to celebrate Alexis’ life was to promote the gift of life. We do this each year with our annual Alexis’ Angel Sale. We work during the year making crafts, collecting garage sale items, and growing plants, which we sell, along with jambalaya dinners, on the Saturday after Easter. The proceeds go to LOPA, to help promote organ donor awareness. We also hold a blood drive on that day to allow those attending to become a blood donor. To me, the most rewarding outcome of Alexis’ Angel Sale is connecting with recipients, their families, and donor families and learning that some of these donations were inspired by Alexis’ story. What a wonderful way to keep Alexis’ spirit and memory alive!