ONE DAY five years ago bubbly, gorgeous soccer goalie Korinne Shroyer came home from eighth grade, found her father's revolver in his closet and fired a bullet into her skull.
This is about the lives she saved doing it.
Out of a million kids you'd pick Korinne last to commit suicide. She was a popular kid in her class in Lynchburg, Va. But then she started feeling sad for no reason. Her parents took her to a therapist, who recommended Paxil. But one worry with Paxil is that it can give teenagers suicidal thoughts when they first start taking it. Korinne made it through 10 days.
That bullet tore a hole in her father, Kevin, that you could drive an 18-wheeler through. Korinne was Kevin's best friend, the kid who would Rollerblade with him as he ran for hours, the kid who'd come with him to Orioles games and chat with him until his ears hurt. "I used to run all the time," says Kevin Shroyer, 46. "I loved it because it gave me time to think. But [after the suicide], thinking was the last thing I wanted to do."
Kevin, an investigator in the public defender's office, and his wife, Kristie, a hairstylist, were able to think one clear and brave and terrifying thought during the six days Korinne survived after the shooting. They decided to send out her organs like gifts.
Her green eyes would go in one direction, her glad heart another, her kidneys still another. Her liver and her pancreas went somewhere else, and her two good lungs—the ones that played the saxophone—went to a Gainesville, Ga., man named Len Geiger, who was so close to dying that he was practically pricing caskets.
A runner and swimmer and nonsmoker, Geiger suddenly found one day that he only had enough breath for walking or talking, not both. Turns out he had genetic emphysema, also known as Alpha-1, and a lung transplant was his only hope for survival.
He was on his fifth year on the waiting list and "life wasn't worth living," he says, when Korinne pulled the trigger. Geiger received those two young lungs six days later in an operation at the University of Virginia Medical Center.
And that's where this story gets good.
Geiger, now 48, went from 15% lung function to way above average for his age. He got his second wind and his second life. He was so grateful, he wrote Korinne's parents to say thank you. And that letter changed everybody's lives.