Damien Barkley

Damien Enghauser was a compassionate and generous boy who almost always put others ahead of himself.  (Special to the Tribune)

For a 12-year-old, Damien Enghauser was a particularly thoughtful boy.

His mother Kaydi Barkley describes the Chandler youngster as a humanitarian who exhibited above-average compassion — always putting others ahead of himself, wanting to give back to others, showing no tolerance for hate.

Damien’s compassion extended beyond the grave.

After his untimely death last month, his organs gave life to four people.

“He gets his dying wish,” Damien’s mother said. “He gets to help people.”

Damien was preparing to start a new chapter in his life as a seventh-grader at Willis Junior High School when his health began to rapidly deteriorate. 

He got his diagnosis on a Monday and by the following week, he was gone. 

But Barkley and her two other children are comforted by the fact that his organs have potentially saved the lives of four strangers. 

Barkley said her son was often plagued with illness when he was younger. 

He suffered from asthma and survived multiple ear infections. 

But he wouldn’t let these maladies hold him back. 

Damien dreamed of winning a Nobel Peace Prize, rescuing endangered reptiles and studying renewable energy. 

“He just wanted to make the world a better place for everybody,” Barkley said.

His ambitions came to a halt when his mother noticed some red blotches on his legs. The family thought Damien had suffered an allergic reaction and didn’t think much of it. 

But the red spots wouldn’t go away, so the family made an appointment with a pediatrician.

Damien was diagnosed with immune thrombocytopenia (or ITP), a rare blood disorder that causes excessive bruising and bleeding. 

The family is not sure how or when Damien contracted the disease, which is more common among young women, according to the Mayo Clinic. The disease is not contagious and is often linked to viral or bacterial infections.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute categorizes ITP as not being a life-threatening condition for children. 

In fact, a 2001 study published in the Blood Journal found most adults living with ITP have “good outcomes” and low mortality rates.

Tests showed Damien’s blood platelets were extremely low, meaning his blood couldn’t clot properly and could cause internal bleeding. He was given a prescription for prednisone and sent home. 

The family was instructed to watch for nose bleeds and to keep Damien away from any strenuous activity. 

Despite suffering from a headache, Damien told his mom he was well enough to go to school. 

She gave him some Tylenol, but her son did not last long that day. He quickly came back home after his headache got worst. 

Barkley got a call at work from her other son, urgently telling her to come home. He informed her that Damien was vomiting and not acting like himself. 

Barkley said she came home to find Damien angrily yelling and screaming — behavior that did not fit with his happy disposition. 

“You could see the rage in his face,” Barkley recalled. 

She later learned that Damien’s brain had started to hemorrhage, causing damage to his frontal lobe and possibly altering his personality. 

The boy was rushed to the hospital and underwent surgery to relieve the swelling in his brain. But the swelling didn’t subside, so Barkley knew she needed to act fast and make a decision. 

She got in contact with the Donor Network of Arizona and made arrangements for Damien to be an organ donor. 

They had always discussed this regularly as a family.

 Barkley is a cancer survivor and told her children why she wanted to donate her organs when her time came. And she remembered Damien telling her he wanted to do the same. 

“And he’s like ‘Well, that’s what I want to do,’” she recalled.  

According to the Donor Network, there are about 2,000 people in Arizona on a waiting list to receive an organ. The Network estimates it processes about 22 juvenile donors each year. 

Parents of anyone under the age of 18 can decide whether or not to have their child’s organs donated. 

Damien died on July 27 and doctors quickly got to work saving the organs that could be used for donation.

By July 29, the family was informed that four people had been matched with Damien’s organs. 

A 67-year-old man got one of his lungs, a 66-year-old man received Damien’s liver, a 15-year-old girl was given his kidney and an 11-year-old girl received the other kidney. 

“They weren’t able to donate his heart because it was too big for one recipient and too small for the other,” Barkley said. 

Barkley’s friends and colleagues have come together to raise about $15,000 in donations to help with paying the family’s medical bills. 

The family plans to hold a memorial celebration next month on what would have been Damien’s 13th birthday. 

Barkley said they want to plant a lemon tree — her son’s favorite fruit — to create a lasting memorial for Damien.

But more importantly, the family hopes to spread the word on the value of organ donation. Damien was able to give others the gift of life, she said, and the thought of that has made the grief process a little bit easier. 

“Not only are you helping people who need their lives saved,” she said, “but it’s brought us comfort and has helped us with our healing process.”

Information on organ donation: register.donatelifeaz.org/register

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