Most of you were around when it happened. Shocked was the description used for every single one of us. It was unexpected and tragic, a conclusion to a story that long developed from troubled path towards a corrected future. On December 16, 2009 reports first surfaced that Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry was in a serious accident. The facts were trickling into our hands half as fast as the rumors that circulated. Early the next morning, Chris Henry died.
Over 100 people in the organization made the trip to New Orleans for his funeral to say goodbye, including former teammate T.J. Houshmandzadeh, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association's DeMaurice Smith.
A couple of years later, his mother Carolyn Henry Glaspy spoke about her son's death in front of a crowd at the Life Connection of Ohio's Sprint Seminar for Healthcare Professionals.
“Sure he had had his mess-ups along the way, but he wasn’t the bad boy, the thug boy some people thought he was. He had straightened things up. And through it all he always was a giver. He had a good heart ... a perfect heart ... one he could share now. So I told them he would be a donor.”
Henry’s organs and tissue would change eight people’s lives. It saved some of them. And it has forever changed Glaspy’s as well.
Tom Archdeacon's article goes into the lives saved by Henry's donated organs.
Donna Arnold — who admitted she was bracing herself for her own death – got his pancreas and one kidney. Brian Polk — on dialysis 10 years — got a kidney. James Benton — given six months to live — got a new liver. And Thomas Elliott — unable to breathe — got Chris’ lungs.
Most of this you might remember from the Thanksgiving special on CBS' pregame show.
Henry's legacy is also being felt in the rapid age of protecting players in the NFL. After a thorough examination of his brain, it was learned that Henry suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a form of degenerative brain damage from repeated blows to the head which is increasingly linked to athletes. While the NFL isn't specifically pointing out to issues with CTE, they are making radical changes in rules designed to protect impacts against a player's head, which includes increased fines and possible suspensions.