Employees at a Nevada hospital lined the halls to say their final goodbyes to a teen, who had been declared brain dead after a motorcycle accident, as he was wheeled into organ donation surgery — a decision he made just weeks earlier.
A few months before Michael Sigler was involved in the crash that left him on life support, the 18-year-old made a trip to the Las Vegas DMV with his mom Courtney Kaplan to get his motorcycle driving license.
The motorcycle was something that Michael had wanted for years after observing his father ride around on one. When he finally turned 18, the teen used his own money to purchase the two-wheeler but needed the proper documentation to drive it.
As he was filling out paperwork at the DMV, Kaplan tells PEOPLE that her son did not hesitate when it came to the organ donor section — a moment that was particularly remarkable in her mind.
“Once I explained to him what the benefits are, he grabbed the application from me and check-marked all of the possible options that you can do,” Kaplan explains. “I would not have expected that reaction.”
“As kind and as generous as he was, that, to me, was a whole other level of being selfless, of generosity and being giving,” she adds. “After that day, he was very engaged in the conversation.”
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Months later on May 17, Michael was driving his motorcycle through their Las Vegas community when he tragically collided with a car, driven by another one of his senior classmates.
Sadly, the incident also happened just one week short of both students’ high school graduation.
Though Michael surprisingly did not suffer any internal organ damage or external cuts from the crash, Kaplan says his head took most of the impact and led him to become brain dead.
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“I’m being told the initial impact was so hard, that he was knocked unconscious,” Kaplan shares. “He didn’t suffer, not for a second, which brings a lot of peace.”
Knowing that their son may never wake up again, Kaplan and Michael’s father Charles Sigler made the difficult decision to remove him from life support — and because he had opted to just months earlier, donate his organs to people in need.
As the teen was being wheeled into surgery alongside his family members at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, the hospital staff recorded the incredibly emotional moment that shows the nurses, doctors, and employees all lined down the halls to say farewell to Michael.
That footage was shared on the hospital’s Facebook page on May 23, where they revealed that the powerful tribute was also their first-ever Honor Walk.
“It was Michael’s wish to be an organ donor,” the video reads. “He had made that clear to his parents the day he bought his motorcycle, the same motorcycle he was riding when the accident happened. In tribute to Michael’s noble and selfless decision to be an organ donor, UMC hosted its first-ever Honor Walk.”
In a heartbreaking moment during the nine-minute video, Michael’s father is heard wailing over the unimaginable loss before reminding staffers of his son’s willingness to give the gift of life.
“I will see you again, baby. I promise,” Charles said. “My baby boy made a decision to do this — a conscious decision to do this to share the gift of life with whoever is going to receive it. So please know we’re in the presence right now of an angel!”
“I will never be more grateful for anything than for having been blessed for being his father,” he added. “I love you more than I could ever say.”
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Of the honor walk and the hospital staff paying a final tribute to her son, Kaplan tells PEOPLE the moment felt “bittersweet” and surreal.
“It was absolutely overwhelming,” she recalls. “I looked up from my point of view and all I could see on the horizon were people almost lining the gates of heaven… I couldn’t see the floor, I almost felt like we were floating — like we were gliding through this guided journey.”
“It’s really the most beautiful tragedy that I could ever imagine or be a part of,” she continues. “As tragic as losing a child is, it almost feels like this whole thing was orchestrated for this very purpose just because all the people that it took… it had to be divinely arranged.”
Kaplan notes her son’s organs have gone on to save nine different individuals, though she will not know who they are and what they received for another few weeks. When she does finally learn of their identities, Kaplan hopes she’ll be able to meet them.
“I am eager to hear his heartbeat again and I’m eager to hear the breath of life through his lungs again,” she explains. “They are now family in my eyes… We have nothing but love and honor for them to be able to help Mikey live on.”
While Kaplan continues to grieve in her own way — it’s still difficult for her to pass the intersection where Michael’s accident occurred — she says she finds some solace in knowing that her son’s last moments alive were spent doing something worthwhile.
“He told his friend about a week before the tragedy that if he died on his bike, he would die doing what he loved,” she recalls. “If you find something that you love and it brings you happiness and it fulfills you and you’re passionate about it like Mike was, how can you find anything wrong with it?”
“He would literally jump on the bike all hours of the day, just to get the wind in his hair and feel the breeze and feel that freedom,” she continues. “That was his joy, it absolutely brought him so much joy.”
As for what Kaplan will remember most, Michael’s “kind soul” and willingness to “put others’ needs before his own” — as shown by his decision to donate his organs — are the first two things to come to her mind.
“Through this beautiful tragedy, I don’t find myself being sad. I do miss him, but I just have been able to concentrate on how positive and all of the amazing things that have come from the choice that he made at the DMV,” she says.
“My son who I adore, who I doted over, he’s my hero. I hope to accomplish even something remotely as marvelous and brilliant as what Mike did,” Kaplan adds. “I’m so proud of him.”
For those interested in becoming an organ donor and giving the gift of life, visit Donate Life America. Nevada residents can also register to become an organ donor at Nevada Donor Network.
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