CONNIE RENE RACHAL
May 13, 1956 – December 1, 1999
Connie Rachal was an energetic, loving and compassionate person. She was funny and had a “common sense” way of handling problems. As a result of these wonderful traits, she was also very busy. She was a wife, mother of two boys and an attendance counselor at Natchitoches Central High School. Mike, Connie’s husband worked as an assistant manager of a local grocery chain and both sons, Jeff and Justin, played football for Natchitoches Central High. As a result of her family’s activities and her job, Connie interacted with numerous people of all ages, races and religions. She treated all equally; with a big smile that showed off her beautiful blue eyes. She was loved dearly by her husband and sons. She was also loved by her extended family as well as her coworkers and the students she helped. Her home was always open to friends of her sons as well as her nieces, nephews and their friends. In spite of her busy schedule, she found time to visit friends and family often and to attend school functions of her nieces and nephews. Her advice and approval were sought often.
As the years went by, her nieces married and had children. She instantly became a surrogate grandmother and spoiled each new baby. She was every baby’s favorite aunt. She was looking forward to the day when she would have her own grandchildren to spoil.
On December 1, 1999, Connie went to work as usual. However, on this day, there were two things that were different than other days. The first thing was that two days prior, Connie found out that she was going to be a grandmother by summer. Finally, she was going to have her own grandchild to spoil. The second thing that was different was that she had complained of a headache for several days, but took sinus medication thinking it was caused by the usual seasonal allergies. Shortly after her arrival at work, she collapsed and was rushed to a local hospital. She was diagnosed with a ruptured brain aneurysm. She was placed on life support and transferred to Schumpert Medical Center in Shreveport. Mike, Jeff and Justin were told that Connie’s chance of surviving surgery were one in two thousand. They were advised by specialists to take no further action. The family and the community were in shock. How could something like this happen to such a wonderful person? She was only 43 years old, healthy, active, and vibrant----how could this happen? No one really knows why, but it did happen.
Mike was contacted by LOPA about organ donation. He and his sons honored Connie’s wish to be an organ donor. Mike filled out the paperwork and said goodbye to the love of his life.
Connie had indicated her wishes to be an organ donor years before her life ended. Ironically, Mike’s brother had received a kidney transplant in 1996; three years after, both of his kidneys were removed due to a rare kidney cancer. During the three years of waiting, Connie experienced the pain and emotional toll a family must endure while they pray for a miracle. It was during this time that Connie filled out her donor card and made her wishes known to her family. Other members of the family followed her example and filled out their donor cards as well.
In 2000, Mike agreed to let the local paper tell Connie’s story. It was his hope to raise awareness of how the 'gift of life’ can affect so many lives. Although no names or locations were given, the article gave information about those who had received Connie’s organs. Mike, Jeff and Justin were later contacted through LOPA by the recipient of Connie’s heart. She invited them to a family reunion. Although difficult, they agree to go. They visited only a short time because it was very emotional. However, they met a family just like their own; loving and caring and fun. There were children playing and laughing.
Kierstin Rachal arrived six months after Connie died. Even though they never met in person, Kiersten knows all about her grandmother’s wonderful personality, her love of family and of her most precious gifts given to others.