People Have Lived And Prospered Thanks To Kim Parks’ Deceased Son
by Jack Mayne
Kim Parks still misses her oldest son “terribly,” and she would “give anything for him to walk through the door,” she says, but “I know that cannot happen.”
Her son, Kristopher Kime, then 20, died during a riotous Mardi Gras celebration in Pioneer Square on Feb. 28, 2001. Parks said that was “the worst day in my life.” Her son saw a young woman being beaten by a person in the crazed and drunken battle that broke out while police nearby watched. A man later convicted of second-degree manslaughter hit Kime, who fell and struck his head, leading to his death.
But Kim Parks is tremendously proud that people have lived and prospered because of her son’s earlier decision to become an organ donor.
“Ten years ago, Kris Kime saved the lives of five people when he became an organ donor after being killed trying to save a woman’s life from an angry mob,” said a recent e-mail from the organ donor organization Life Center Northwest.
She says she is daily strengthened by the fact that part of Kris, still lives.
“That is why I can sit at my desk at work and deal with the things I need to deal with. I have a photo of my son, Kris, on my desk and it has only been on my desk for about six months – it was underneath or hidden behind something because I just could not work seeing his photo. But it is now there and even though I tell people he is in front of me, he is behind me pushing me all the way.”
She says she tries not to focus on the terrible events.
“I try to focus on the positive things, about the wonderful things of life he’s given to these (five) people,” she says. “People we have talked to say, ‘You know, Kim, when I heard about what your son did and because of that, I have signed up to be an organ donor.’ I try to focus on that.”
Jerell Thomas, now 27, was sentenced to prison for the death of Kime, who never regained consciousness after Thomas threw several punches at his head. He was released but has since gone to jail on unrelated charges.
“When I look at the person (convicted) that actually caused this, it makes me sick to stomach. I feel kind of lost sometimes. I just feel it is just so unfair. I know when he was in prison, he was able to get visitors,” Park said. “For me to go visit my son, I go out to Tukwila to the cemetery.
“I have a real problem when I try to justify that to my own children or now my grandchildren when they start asking questions. They know all about Uncle Kris – they know who he is,” Parks says.
But they ask, “‘How come, grandma, when bad people do things like that, they are not in jail forever. I kind of ask myself the same question. But, it tears me up if I continue to focus on that. I don’t understand it.”
Some wonder why Kime went to help the woman he did not know that ended in his death.
“He was taught that you never hit women for any reason, whatsoever, and if somebody needs help, you go to help them,” she says. “Because he went to help, he lost his life.”
Parks says that after the event, which took place while Paul Schell was mayor, then-mayoral candidate Greg Nickels called her and said he would be proud to have Kris Kime’s death certificate on his office wall if he were elected.
“Afterwards, when he became mayor, he said to me he would rather have a photo of Kris – a head shot in his soccer uniform – and with the death certificate on the backside of the photo, (and) this hung in Greg Nickels’ office. Every day, when he came in, it reminded him of what his job was.”
The photo is now in Park’s home.
Earlier this year, KING-TV’s New Day Northwest program featured Parks with Larry Levinson, one of the five and the one who received Kris Kime’s heart.
Levinson, who could not be reached for this story, said on the television program that he had been sick for the six months before his transplant and had had several heart attacks.
“By that time, I had been on the (transplant) list for six years, so I was pretty much attuned to the idea that I was going to die.”
When he found out about the possibility of a transplant of Kime’s heart, Levinson said he did “not let myself think” about it. “I said, ‘we’ll see.’”
Levinson said he had a good life until 1995 when doctors told him he had 10 months to live.
“Up to that time, I had really been a type A workaholic,” he said. “Went through a couple of marriages and that kind of thing,” he said on the TV show. “I finally realized after they had diagnosed me that I’d killed myself with my attitude as well as a lack of proper exercise and food.”
During the six years from the diagnosis until he received Kime’s donated heart, “I learned how to live. Now I am a type C, maybe,” he said with a laugh.
He says that Kime has saved his life four times.
“The first time was with the heart, the second time was after I’d gotten into a motorcycle accident which put me into a coma for six weeks, eight months I could walk again,” he said. The strong heart he had gotten from Kime was instrumental is=n allowing him to live through the accident and recover.
After all of that, he said he suffered through two serious cases of pneumonia.
“In none of those cases would I have made it” without the heart transplant from Kris Kime.
Kim Parks smiles her broad smile and remembers her son was the kind of person that, “if he had not been my son, I would have wished he was the boy next door that my daughter could have fallen in love with.”
The good out of the tragedy has kept her enjoying life.