Dario Franchitti, Taylor McLean, Tim Clauson and Scott Dixon at an autograph event for Driven2SaveLives. Photo: Jill Sheridan/IPB
Organ donation has become a mission for racing families during this year’s Indianapolis 500 with a goal of increasing the number of registered donors – and through the process comes healing and hope.
A Little Sister
Taylor McLean was close to her brother Bryan Clauson. He was an organ donor.
“Bryan was the best big brother, the most amazing person and to be able to honor him still even though he’s not here it’s been a dream come true, honestly,” says McLean. “It’s helped me grieve in ways I didn’t know were possible and get through some of the darkest days of my life.”
McLean helped out at an Indiana Donor Network autograph session at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this month. Fans had to show proof that they are registered donors to get autographs from a few IndyCar drivers including Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon.
In Indiana, 74 percent of licensed drivers are registered donors. This is the second year for the Driven2SaveLives campaign and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway officially signed on as a partner earlier this month.
Family members of former racecar drivers, like Taylor McLean, are leading the push to increase the number of organ and tissue donors during this year’s 101st running of the Indianapolis 500.
McLean works with the Indiana Donor Network and to educate people about the real impact of organ and tissue donation.
“His legacy lives on and it will continue to live on in the lives he helped save through organ donation and the people he’s inspired to register as donors,” says McLean.
Last year, Bryan Clauson was trying to race in 200 races around the world including the 500. He was on his 117th when he suffered a life threatening brain injury in a crash. He was put on life support at the hospital. His father, Tim Clauson says the doctors told him his son wouldn’t recover.
“In the moment and it’s hard to put it into words when you find out that your son is gone and then to find out you’re going to have to live in that moment,” says Tim Clauson.
It was that waiting period in the hospital, preparing his son’s organs for donation, that at first seemed so unfathomable. That ended up being an important piece of the healing process.
“We just sat there and crying and saying goodbye it kind of dawned on me that while we were in this devastating moment with our son that there were five other families that were surrounding their loved ones,” says Tim Clauson. “And it was that moment that changed my life.”
Wanting to do something positive, the Clauson family set out to get 500 donors and the racing community and fans responded by signing up – they now have more than 6,000 newly registered.
Tim Clauson was able to meet one of the recipients of his son’s organs recently, another part of the healing process.
A Network of Support
The Clauson family is now trying to reach more people through the Indiana Donor Network’s Driven2SaveLives campaign. President and CEO Kellie Hanner says the need is great.
“Nationwide there is about 118,000 waiting for a life saving organ transplant, in Indiana alone it’s about 1,300 people,” Hanner says.
The network is a statewide organ recovery organization, the bridge between the people who give and the people who wait. It also helps the families of the deceased.
“We have a 13-month after care program where we follow families, providing grief material,” says Hanner.
The Driven2SaveLives campaign started last year in Indianapolis. Then rookie, Stefan Wilson and the Indiana Donor Network partnered to remember and honor his brother Justin Wilson, who died in a crash at a Pennsylvania racetrack in 2015.
Justin Wilson was an organ donor, and Stefan Wilson says that still helps him through the grieving process.
“It’s not often that after someone’s passed that you’re able to talk about them that much and for me it’s been really healing,” he says. “I get to talk about Justin a lot and I love to talk about him.”
It’s been eye-opening to honor his brother’s final act.
“Saving five lives is incredible,” says Stefan Wilson. “More incredible than anything he achieved on track, and believe me he achieved a lot on track.”
Together, Justin Wilson and Bryan Clauson saved 10 lives through organ donation. Bryan Clauson’s tissue donation will be able to help heal up to 75 people.