When Trinity Love Hoblit, her parents and siblings volunteered every year for the Katie Ride for Life in Fernandina Beach, which raises money for organ donation education, she would ask all the participating cyclists, runners, walkers and anyone else who passed by her if they were organ donors.

 

Occasionally they would ask her the same thing right back.


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“She would put her hands on her hips and say, ‘Yes, I am,’” said her mother, Olivia Hoblit.

The 2017 Katie Ride for Life, sponsored by the Katie Caples Foundation, is Saturday and the Hoblit family will be there. Trinity will be there too, in spirit. In 2015, at age 14, she died of a ruptured brain aneurysm. Knowing her passion about organ donation, her parents, Olivia and Phil Hoblit, donated her healthy heart, kidney and liver to three people who needed life-saving transplants.

“It was easy. It’s what Trinity wanted,” her mother said. “We made that decision for her.”

Giving someone life

Trinity was born in 2001 with an extreme disease called primordial dwarfism. She was diagnosed in 2009 with multiple brain aneurysm and endured multiple brain surgeries. She was scheduled for another surgery when she died.

Her heart went to a 5-year-old boy, her kidney to a 29-year-old woman and her liver to a 6-month-old boy who was an hour or two from death at the time. She lives on through them, her father said.

“This is her life’s accomplishment. … This was her thing, This is her college degree,” Phil Hoblit said.

This year Brittany Elliser of Baton Rouge, the mother of the boy who received Trinity’s liver, reached out to the Nassau County family. Hoblit had sent letters to the organ recipients telling them about Trinity but included no contact information. Elliser tracked her down anyway.

The two families — including the boy, Briggs — met via video chat.

“We couldn’t stop crying,” Olivia Hoblit said. “We were so happy to have met Briggs.”

His body ultimately rejected Trinity’s liver. But that transplant kept the boy alive 17 more days than he would have been otherwise, long enough for a third liver to become available.

“She gave him a chance to live,” said her father.

Elliser agreed.

“Without organ donation and especially Trinity Hoblit, our son would not be alive today. She is our hero and has given our family so much happiness and joy,” she said. “Organ donation is the greatest gift to give and as a recipient family, we can never say thank you enough. Her gift of life gave our family hope that our son would live to grow up.

“Being a part of this process has opened our eyes to how generous someone can be. They gave our family this gift and they did not even know us,” she said of the Hoblits. “We take nothing for granted and celebrate all the big and little milestones he is meeting, all because of Trinity.”

Despite the organ rejection, Trinity’s parents wonder if some sort of bonding occurred between her and Briggs. During the video chat, they discovered that Briggs had adopted a few of Trinity’s behaviors that, according to his mother, he had not shown before.

“Things Briggs was doing were the same things Trinity would always do,” such as staring at himself in the mirror, Olivia Hoblit said.

Also, Briggs insisted on having himself front and center during the video chat, just like Trinity would do, said her father.

For Elliser, that video chat “was probably one of the best moments of my life.’

“I don’t think you can prepare for this moment or know the right thing to say because just ‘thank you’ never feels enough,” she said. “To get to tell the parents of Trinity how their daughter saved our son and thank them has been something I wanted to do since we found out there was a match. Briggs definitely got some of her fighting spirit. We know we have another piece added to our family and hope that seeing Briggs brings some of the happiness that was given to us.”

The Hoblits have not connected with the other two recipients of Trinity’s organs and don’t know if that will happen. But Phil Hoblit can hope.

The only thing that could top the video chat, he said, would be to hear his daughter’s heart beating again.

Katie’s example

Olivia Hoblit worked for David and Susan Caples, who lost their own daughter, Katie, in 1998 at age 17.

The car she was driving was struck by another vehicle as she drove home to Nassau County from a March of Dimes walk in Jacksonville. Already an organ donor, she provided the gift of life to five people ages 9 to 62.

The Caples formed the Katie Caples Foundation later that year. The foundation funds organ donation education programs in an effort to increase the number of registered donors and eliminate the wait for the 125,000 adults and children in need of a life-saving organ transplant. Jennifer Cook is executive director.

“Katie’s parents … have done an extraordinary thing, changing the loss of Katie into a life-affirming message of hope for others,” Cook said. “Katie’s generosity and kindness, her willingness to give to others, is the backbone of the work we do. That’s what drives our message, and Katie’s example is just one of so many amazing stories of the gift of donation.”

The foundation is part of the national movement to raise awareness about organ donation, Cook said.

“We are committed to seeing that every person understands what it means and just how important it is to register as an organ donor,” she said. “… It isn’t easy, nonprofit work never is, but it’s important and it makes a real difference in the lives of others.”

The public participation in the ride — this year is the 13th and about 600 people are expected to participate — has been heartening.

“It is so rewarding to see the response,” Cook said.

Beth Reese Cravey: (904) 359-4109