Tragedy Leads to Priceless Gifts of Life

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Cam’s Three Miracles

Spring is a time of renewal. For Sherry Stevens, however, it is the ongoing struggle to regain a sense of normalcy upon losing her towheaded, blue-eyed, 16-year-old son, Cameron Mayhew, last June 2, the victim of a tragic accident while waiting for his school bus in the pitch darkness of early morning, as well as a lesson of how life goes on, in different and difficult ways.

Accident & Aftermath

Cam’s classes at Fort Myers High School began at 7 a.m. so on the morning of June 1, 2016, like all other school days, he was outside waiting for his bus by 5:15 a.m., “and it is so dark at that time,” recalls Sherry. The bus was waiting, with its stop sign arm fully out, with blinking safety lights. Cam was crossing the southbound lane of Pine Ridge Road, to get to the bus in the northbound lane, when a car drove right through the warnings at 45 miles-per-hour and struck him. “By the time I arrived, Cam was in the emergency vehicle and they would not let me see him,” relates Sherry, “but I knew by seeing how far his bookbag flew from the point of impact that is was not going to be good. The driver who hit Cam wasn’t drunk or anything, but late for work; I am sure he feels terrible but . . .”; her voice trails off and eyes flood with tears.

“There is no penalty if you run past a stopped school bus,” she continued. “It is just a civil crime punishable by a fine and not a criminal proceeding or even reckless driving. Representative Dane Eagle (R-Cape Coral) and Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) sponsored legislation in Florida to strengthen the penalties and their first two measures passed unanimously, but it is still not a crime, with just a fine but no jail or even points against your license. As a parent I was shocked, and you don’t know these things until it happens to you. Had the driver been drinking rather than late for work, it would be different, but he has to be committing another crime while running through the bus stop sign and killing a child, so he did not get into any trouble for killing my son, except for a traffic court appearance.”

The Florida Senate bill sponsored by Passidomo would require motorists who illegally pass a stopped school bus to serve 120 community hours in a trauma center, participate in a victim’s impact panel, pay a $1,500 fine, and receive a one-year driver’s license suspension. The man who mortally struck Cameron received a $1,000 fine, had to attend driving school, and had his license suspended for six months.

Sherry Stevens, Bobby Youngs, cameron mayhew
Cameron’s mother Sherry Stevens and Bobby Youngs.

Smart & Humble

Even though Cam was just finishing his sophomore year with only one more week of class left, “he already had offers from Yale University and the University of California at Berkeley among others, “as he was a standout student…He was on the Honor Role at every one of his schools, and at Orangewood Elementary was in 15 different service organizations. When he finally received his first ‘B,’ it was in Art, and he took it so well, saying ‘let’s just say I am not the world’s craftiest person!’”

Cam was humble and not a braggart, Sherry explained. “He took a World AP Exam and was one of just 12 people globally to obtain a perfect score! He received an invitation to the Presidential Inauguration Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., with the highlight attending the inauguration of the next president who ended up being Donald Trump. He was already a member of the National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists Award of Excellence, Global Young Leader Conference and National Society of High School Scholars. Cam ruled out a physician for a career because he did not like the sight of blood, then thought about law but didn’t like some aspects of that either, so he was considering being a scientist or an engineer in web technology, and we think he favored Berkeley for a college.

“I know I am his mother and have no sense of perspective, but he had an amazing future.”

Sherry still receives college offers and honors for Cam in the mail, calling it “bittersweet!”

organ donor, cameron mayhew
Sherry & Bobby hold the LifeLink or Florida Flag, dedicated to Cam and his decision to be a life-saving organ donor.

Who Could Imagine?

Cam got his learner’s permit driver’s license the day before he died: “When they asked if he wanted to be an organ donor, he said he did and I was a little surprised,” Sherry reflected. “Afterwards I asked him about it and he said he wanted to because, if anything ever went wrong, he wanted someone else to benefit from his circumstance. Who could imagine what was about to happen?”

Even though medical professionals declared on June 2 that Cam no longer had any brain activity and was technically gone, they had to keep him alive through June 4 as all the medications moved out of his body, making his organs clean for transplant; the five organs ultimately selected were the only ones undamaged by the accident.

Sherry received notification that a 51-year-oId married gentleman received Cameron’s heart: “I know it changed his life, and his family’s for sure. I was 51 at the time of Cam’s tragedy, so that was special to me.” His left kidney and liver went to a 57-year-old man, and his right kidney and pancreas to another 48-year-old man, all three of whom are by coincidence Floridians.

“I can meet them after the one-year anniversary,” explains Sherry, “but only if they agree, and I hope they do, because I want them to know what a great kid Cam was and that donating his organs was literally his last wish. I absolutely can’t wait to meet them, as that is HUGE! Cam’s tragedy means that three people received miracles. I don’t want them to feel guilty, because he could not give them a greater gift, or one that speaks more about the kind of person he was.”

Family & Friends

Cam has a 15-year-old brother, Brandon, who is two years younger. “I am really proud of him, and he is very doing well, considering everything he is enduring,” Sherry offered. “Cameron always helped Brandon with his homework, because after a certain point, it is all beyond me!” Sherry’s fiancée, Bobby Youngs, and Cam developed a special relationship: “Bobby taught Cam to drive, and how to shave,” Sherry says with a heartfelt smile. “

“Cam was a super kid,” reflected Bobby. “He was so book smart but not yet street smart, and that made him so innocent. We have our good days and bad days now, but I will be good as long as Sherry and Brandon are OK, as they are my main concerns.” “When I fall down,” Sherry adds, “Bobby helps me get up, and he has been our rock; he helps me to keep my faith when I get angry.”

She also credits Cam’s grandparents, “My parents, Dolores and Charles Buckel, have been by our side throughout this whole process.”

She calls Fort Myers High School as well as the Siesta Bay RV Resort community, where she works, “amazing! The school did bake sales and made big posters, and all the kids signed a yearbook for me. One of Cam’s friends and his family planted 10 trees in his memory in the Chippewa National Forest, and we heard from kids who went to different schools about how much he meant to them. One of his teachers said Cam was like the silent leader because he was such good kid who was never in trouble or running amok. Siesta Bay people care about you and everyone offers their condolences and prayers, and the kindness they show keeps us going; that and of course our faith as we are all Christians.”

Endings & Emotions

With tears streaming, Sherry said: “Life as I know it is gone, and there is no way around that, because there is a huge hole! Right now I’m just trying to relearn how to live with the void, I really don’t know how to put it into words. It is not just different for me but also the people I love, as I see them suffer – Bobby and my parents and Brandon, who will go through life with a broken heart, and that breaks my heart! Sometimes I sit in the house, and there is the hallway Cam walked down to go to his room that I saw so many times every day, and I look down it now and it stretches into this long empty tunnel.

“When I come home from work, Cam would already be there, and I would ask ‘how was school’ and he would say ‘good, what’s for dinner?’ I still expect that sometimes, and it is hard to cook without him. Shopping is hard. It is hard to watch television programs with school kids and college kids, or to watch small children because you have those memories. His life was just starting…and then suddenly it is over.

“He was such a good boy, and I think about him every day, and it is a real struggle for our family.”

“I am always proud of him and he is still here with me, but he is also in a better place, where he has no worries and no struggles, and is safely out of harm’s way.”

 

Gary Mooney