10-year-old swept into storm drain to become an organ donor, dad says

Asher Sullivan was helping clean up storm debris at the time of the accident.

May 20, 2024, 1:52 PM

A 10-year-old boy who was swept into a storm drain while helping his family clean up storm debris is being kept on life support so that his organs can be donated, according to his father.

The boy, Asher Sullivan, "officially passed away" on May 18, but remains on life support to facilitate the organ donation process, his dad, Jimmy Sullivan, wrote in a Facebook post.

"It’s 100% an 'Asher' type thing to do in continuing to be selfless," Sullivan shared on Facebook. "He will have an honor walk at the hospital in the next few days and be celebrated as he is, a hero!"

Asher, a fourth-grade student, was playing outside and helping his family and neighbors clean up after severe weather in their neighborhood in Christiana, around 45 miles southeast of Nashville, on May 8, when the accident happened, according to James Evans, chief communications officer for Rutherford County Schools, where Asher's father serves as director of schools.

"There was some standing water in their streets in their neighborhood, and as the water started moving, Asher was sucked into a drain and pulled underground," Evans told "Good Morning America," on May 14. "He was underground for 10 to 14 minutes."

Evans said Asher received immediate medical attention when he emerged from underground but never regained consciousness.

PHOTO: Asher Sullivan, 10, is pictured in a photo shared by Rutherford County Schools.
Asher Sullivan, 10, is pictured in a photo shared by Rutherford County Schools.
Courtesy of Rutherford County Schools

Asher was treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where his father and his mother, Kaycee Sullivan, did not leave his side, according to Evans.

Jimmy Sullivan, who has led Rutherford County Schools, a district with over 50,000 students, for two years, shared daily updates on Facebook about his son over the course of his nearly two-week hospitalization.

In earlier posts, he asked family and friends to "keep prayers coming" and shared that Asher had an anoxic brain injury, meaning he had a loss of oxygen to his brain.

In another more recent post, he described his family as feeling "broken-hearted, mad, and every other emotion at the same time."

"The feeling is surreal. Asher is officially 'deceased' with the lack of brain function, but due to organ donation, we are still in the room with him and his heart still beats," Jimmy Sullivan shared Sunday in a message posted late Sunday. "[Tennessee Donor Services] is lining up donors so that Asher can promote life in others, but this is painful."

Evans described the Sullivan family, which also includes a middle-school-age son, Declan, as a family loved by others in the community.

PHOTO: Members of the Rutherford County Schools district are rallying around Asher Sullivan, a 10-year-old boy who was swept away in a storm drain.
Members of the Rutherford County Schools district are rallying around Asher Sullivan, a 10-year-old boy who was swept away in a storm drain.
Courtesy of Rutherford County Schools

In 2020, the community rallied around the family as Declan battled cancer, from which he is now in remission, according to Evans.

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Asher, according to Evans, is a "fun-loving" kid who likes to travel with his family and join them in outdoor activities, like hiking.

"They’re good people," he said of the Sullivans. "They’re one of those families that everyone loves."

He said the neighborhood where the Sullivans live is one populated by many Rutherford County Schools' teachers and students, many of whom were outside helping at the time of Asher's accident.

The school district closed schools for two days following the accident.

On May 9, more than 500 people gathered for a prayer vigil for the family, according to Evans.

PHOTO: Members of the Rutherford County Schools district are rallying around Asher Sullivan, a 10-year-old boy who was swept away in a storm drain.
Members of the Rutherford County Schools district are rallying around Asher Sullivan, a 10-year-old boy who was swept away in a storm drain.
Courtesy of Rutherford County Schools

Over the next several days, as schools around the district mark end-of-year activities and graduations, students and teachers honored Asher by wearing green and blue, his favorite colors.

"Everybody is just heartbroken," Evans said.

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