By Margie Wuebker
Ruth Hanna of Celina describes her son Nate, who died due to injuries from a traffic accident, as a giving person who would want someone to have his organs.
"I remember Nate telling me once 'If I die, I want to be an organ donor. I want to help other people,' "the mother says quietly about her late son.
Ruth and Ray Hanna honored the wish of their 18-year-old son, who was declared brain dead due to injuries sustained Saturday afternoon in a Dayton traffic accident.
Nate Hanna was returning to Mercer County from Independence, Ky., with friends Dave Winget and Josh Dixon at the time of the 1:30 p.m. crash. The trio had gone to Kentucky that morning so Winget could purchase a car the guys found on the Internet. Winget and Dixon climbed into the new acquisition for the return trip, and Hanna followed in his 1991 Honda CRX, which he affectionately called "a work in progress."
Rain necessitated a stop near Cincinnati for new wiper blades and lunch. The weather did not improve as they drove northward to Dayton. Winget hit a puddle of standing water while traveling along Interstate 75 near the Keowee Street exit. He looked into the rear-view mirror as Hanna hit the same spot and then pulled over near the median. "We also pulled over thinking Nate's motor had stalled," Winget says. "I ran back to help and saw the whole thing unfold."
Hanna exited the disabled car when a northbound Pontiac driven by a Troy man hydroplaned on the wet pavement. It struck the stopped Honda at approximately 50 miles per hour, knocking the vehicle across three lanes of traffic.
Winget found his friend lying face down on the pavement beneath the back bumper of the Pontiac. A semi driver stopped to assist with traffic and a nurse worked over Hanna's still body.
"She told us Nate had a faint pulse but was not breathing," Winget says quietly. "Then the ambulance came and took him away."
The two friends remained at the scene until nearly 5 p.m. talking to investigators and waiting until Dayton Police opened the busy thoroughfare to traffic before heading to the hospital.
Hanna's parents had been attending an exposition in Columbus when they learned of the accident via a cell phone call. Ruth Hanna, a nurse employed by the Mercer County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, talked to hospital personnel en route.
"We had hope at first because we believe in the power of prayer and miracles," she says. "The doctors warned the third day is often the most critical and the pressure inside Nate's head kept building Monday."
The young man remained in a drug-induced coma in hopes of minimizing swelling while a ventilator sustained his breathing. A grim-faced doctor pronounced him brain dead at 4:15 p.m. Monday.
Relatives and friends had spent the weekend recalling good times. Laughter mixed with tears as stories surfaced attesting to a welcome sense of humor, general concern for others and a penchant for skate boarding.
"We sat with Nate all night," the grieving mother says. "The doctors told us he was brain dead, but we talked to him anyway and so did his friends. Our baby left this world knowing how much he was loved and appreciated. He certainly touched a lot of lives in a relatively short period of time."
The hospital vigil continued until 7:30 a.m. Tuesday when an organ transplant team arrived with coolers in hand.
The 2004 Celina High School graduate, who excelled in art, track and cross country, always seemed to be on the go. Although employed at Versa Pak Inc. in Celina, he as well as buddies Winget and Dixon planned to enroll at Wyo Tech in Blairsville, Pa., next year. Together they dreamed of opening a car repair and restoration business after completing the intensive program. They even chose the name -- LNC (Late Night Chaos).
"Nate was a cut to the chase kind of guy," former classmate Dan Dircksen says. "Some people try to be funny; humor came as natural as breathing to him."
Friends remember how "Nate Dizzel" showed up for senior prom wearing a tuxedo like no other -- a bright orange and silver design fashioned of duct tape. Even his sneakers were taped vivid orange.
"I wish I could hear his laugh or his drawn-out 'Yeahhhhhh' just one more time," Ruth Hanna says with a sigh. "He was a happy-go-lucky guy always ready to help others change oil, tinker with engines or install sound systems. He had a heart of gold."
Ironically, the transplant team was unable to take that heart due to possible injuries. However, his lungs, pancreas, kidneys and liver will give others a new lease on life.
"Our greatest consolation is knowing at least part of Nate will live on in more than memories," she adds. "He continues to help others in death as he did in life."
See obituary on page 5A.