‘I wanted him to live on’: Parents accept award for donating 4-year-old son’s organs - October 24, 2017

Courtesy of Post-Tribune

Written by Carole Carlson

Carrietta Fryerson gave birth to her first daughter on the same day she said goodbye to her 4-year-old son.

In a ceremony at Gary City Hall, Carrietta and DeShannon Fryerson accepted the Tragedy to Triumph award from the Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Network for the donation of their son’s organs last year. Three Gary firefighters also received an award for their lifesaving efforts at the Monday event.

The tragedy unfolded last Dec. 6 as the Fryersons’ children were visiting their grandmother at the Dorie Miller Homes on the city’s east side. Suddenly, an afternoon fire ripped through the apartment as D’Anthony Fryerson napped in an upstairs bedroom.

As firefighters arrived, the children’s grandmother, Kendra Johnson, a longtime community activist, screamed that D’Anthony was still upstairs. The other boys were unhurt. D’Anthony died Dec. 8.

Gary firefighters Jerry Jordan and Larry Tillman maneuvered a ladder to the second-floor bedroom and climbed into the smoke-filled bedroom, according to fire officials. Jordan found D’Anthony and carried him downstairs into the hands of medic Daniel Hesslau.

“He was still breathing when we got him out into the snow,” remembered Hesslau. “Within 30 seconds, he stopped breathing.”

Hesslau intubated D’Anthony in the ambulance en route to Methodist Hospitals in Gary, as other firefighters performed CPR. “As we got to the hospital, we got a heartbeat,” said Hesslau. “He was an incredibly strong kid.”

Fryerson, 26, of St. Louis, fought back a wave of emotion Monday as she described her late son’s outgoing personality and “old soul.”

Fryerson, who was nearly eight months pregnant with her first daughter, said she received a text message about a fire at her mother’s house where her children were visiting. She was told to go to a Chicago hospital where D’Anthony was on life support.

“It was an amazing team of doctors and nurses,” she said of the staff at Advocate Lutheran Children’s Hospital. “My husband and I felt like everything happened for a reason… I just didn’t want him to suffer.”

As she waited with her husband at the hospital, Fryerson began experiencing labor pains. Doctors decided to perform a cesarean section.

After giving birth to daughter Keri, hospital workers moved D’Anthony upstairs to meet his sister.

Then, the Fryersons learned about a 1-year-old girl in California who would probably die that same weekend without a liver transplant. “I wanted to donate his organs. I wanted him to live on… because it’s the right thing to do,” Fryerson said.

The Fryersons knew the turmoil the family in California was enduring. “We didn’t want anyone else to go through the pain we did.”

Fryerson said the firefighters who rescued D’Anthony did everything they could to save him.

Jordan, Tillman and Hesslau attended D’Anthony’s funeral on Dec. 17 and Fryerson gave them medals from the Gift of Hope, said its CEO Kevin Cmunt. “It was one of the most moving moments of my life, when she called them up in the middle of the funeral,” he said.

“Without the efforts of those firefighters who went into a burning building… lives were saved. He impacted the world in a special way,” Cmunt said of D’Anthony.

Fryerson said her son would have turn 5 years old on Sunday.

“He was an amazing 4-year-old who brought the community together.”