Ashley Ann Marie Shepherd
Ashley was a 21-year-old inspiration to many. Her unimaginable journey began at age 17 when she was diagnosed with a hereditary heart condition known as cardiomyopathy, and congestive heart failure. Her four year battle consisted of countless hospital stays, procedures, gallbladder removal, and three cardiac arrests which eventually lead to a heart transplant on December 2, 2012. Thanks to the unselfish gift of a donor, Ashley received the greatest gift of all…LIFE. In the year after her transplant she was “able to have a quality life again”, as she put it. Bicycling and working out became part of her daily routine. Something she thought she’d never be able to do again. She was even blessed for the little things like taking a shower, walking, and sleeping while only needing one pillow to breathe instead of five.
The picture of the word “persevere” on the quilt is a tattoo that Ashley got put on her. She was a woman who valued life and strived to get as much out of it as she could. She succeeded in making an impact and persevering to the utmost level.
She became a true advocate for “Gift of Life”, spreading the word about organ donation by setting up booths for advertising or just simply putting it online via FaceBook. She helped increase the donor registry in Michigan by encouraging friends, family, and strangers to become a donor. Six months after her transplant she even ran a 5K, promoting Gift of Life. She made a point to let people know organ donation does save lives; even if only for a short time. She gave the gift of sight by donating her eyes.
Ashley left a huge mark on everyone’s heart who knew her. Her laugh, beautiful smile, striking personality, and positive spirit is what drew people in. I remember countless times she would express her sincere gratitude being given a second chance at life. Wherever you are and whoever it was, know that she was forever grateful. She never took your loved one’s selfless gift for granted. The one thing that Ashley cherished with her up until her last day was this quote for her donor family:
“I want your family to know that your loved one will never be forgotten; not just because they will remain in your heart, but because they will remain in mine.”