North Platte Child's Organ Donation Through Facebook Saves Boy's Life

July 1, 2021, 4:48 p.m. ·

Lucas Goeller holds a fish
Since Lucas Goeller's liver transplant, he can talk, bike, and fish now. (Photo Courtesy Save Lucas Facebook Page)

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Having a small child with a terminal disease is difficult and traumatic for any parent. Two families, one from North Platte and the other from Pittsburgh, are now linked thanks to the organ donation from a dying child. The kids' mothers met for the first time on a Facebook Live event, hosted by Donate Life America, Live On Nebraska and the Center for Organ Recovery and Education, earlier this week, six years after Olivia Swedberg's death and Lucas Goeller’s new life.

In 2015, Jessica Goeller’s two-year-old son, Lucas, had end-stage liver failure. The Pittsburgh boy couldn’t walk or run and he only spoke a few words. He needed an entire liver transplant. Lucas waited for almost two years on the transplant list, so his mother started the Save Lucas Facebook page in hopes to find a donor. Overnight, nearly 100,000 people followed the page. Goeller said she spent hours replying to messages when a North Platte mother, nearly 1,200 miles away, asked her about her son’s weight and blood type.

"And then it hit me like a ton of bricks, 'Oh my god that was such a specific question," she said. "Somebody out there wants to save my son."

Olivia Swedberg of North Platte poses for a photo
Olivia Swedberg's brain tumor wasn't curable, but the rest of her body was healthy. Her parents decided to donate her organs after her death. (Photo Courtesy Princesses Don't Wear Pants)

That someone was Lauressa Gillock, mother of three-year old Olivia Swedberg, who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, with no chance of survival. Gillock started the Princesses Don't Wear Pants Facebook page to document her daughter’s last days. After reading online about some parents' decision to donate their children's brain after death, Gillock and her then-husband decided to donate their daughter’s organs upon her death A woman saw both Facebook pages and connected the two mothers. On June 30, 2015, Olivia’s liver went straight to saving Lucas’ life. Gillock said seeing Lucas grow to run, bike, and fish the past six years has given her closure.

"My daughter's living on through these other people and it's just an amazing gift to have," Gillock said. "She was going to die regardless of my decision and I'm glad that we made this decision. It's helped [me] in my grief journey."

Gillock hopes everyone, especially parents, consider thinking about organ donation. She said if she was in Goeller’s position, she would have been praying for a savior, that’s why the parents decided their daughter could become one.