Agitating, yet kind. Ornery, but thoughtful. Full of energy and a sunny, funny character.
Sean Early loved “anything with wheels.” He was an ironworker by day and a gearhead racer in his off hours. He started out with skateboards and BMX bikes, and later developed a special affinity for racing Volkswagen GTIs, which he owned over the course of many years in every color of the rainbow. As a teen, Sean built a half pipe in the backyard of his childhood home in Dundalk to support his skateboarding habit; right before he died, Sean and his closest friend combined forces to build a repair business forged by their common love of VWs.
When Sean was 31 years old, an aneurysm—so large, it was likely present through his entire life—ruptured suddenly in his brain, later exacerbated by a series of small strokes.
His family spent 51 rollercoaster days with Sean on the neurosciences critical care unit (NCCU) at Johns Hopkins Bayview before he was gone, leaving a hole in his giant patchwork quilt family in Dundalk. More than 500 mourners attended his funeral, an overwhelming outpouring of love from their community that helped Sean’s family cut through the fog of their grief.
Sean Early was a registered organ donor, a fact that was unknown, yet no surprise, to his family. He had donated blood for many years, a universal donor with the O negative blood type that is routinely in short supply and high demand. “Why wouldn’t I donate blood?” was the answer Sean would give when explaining his dedication to the Red Cross. Only 7 percent of donors are O negative, now including his little sister Dana Early, a Johns Hopkins University employee, who is determined to honor her brother’s legacy.
Recently, the extended Early family attended the Living Legacy Foundation’s donor wall ceremony at Johns Hopkins Bayview, where an orange plaque bearing Sean’s name was unveiled to honor his gift of life. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, only three in 1,000 people die in a way that allows for organ donation, and the Early family feels grateful that Sean was able to help others after his death. “At first, we weren’t sure he would qualify,” says Donna Irish, Sean’s mother. “But the Living Legacy Foundation called us several hours later and told us that Sean was able to help three others through their work.”
Sean’s family attends Living Legacy flag-raisings, runs and remembrance ceremonies whenever they can. It’s a way for his on-the-go, fun-loving spirit to live on, and a reminder of those alive today because of Sean.
To learn more about the life-saving work of the Living Legacy Foundation, visit thellf.org.