POCATELLO — Being related to not just one, but two people who are alive today because of organ donors, it’s no surprise that a 15-year-old local boy was able to help save the lives of four people when he died following a tragic two-vehicle crash on Highway 30 in Pocatello on Dec. 23.
The final act of selflessness was nothing out of the ordinary for Jorden Breen, a charming and charismatic teenager known to his family, friends and coworkers as the first to volunteer when someone needed help or a task needed finished.
“From the time he was a little boy, Jorden was a chatterbox and just the biggest helper,” said his cousin Shelby Boyer-Facer. “He was the first to jump up and lend a helping hand or give you a big hug when he saw you.”
Jorden was always genuine, said his grandmother, Cindy Madden, adding that he greeted everyone he met with his contagious smile. He approached every task as an opportunity to learn and explore. With guidance from his two sets of parents, he grew to understand the benefits of hard work while still appreciating his teenage fun and independence.
While Breen and Madden were always close, the two will forever share a unique connection — one that holds a special place in the hearts of their extended family and will allow for parts of Breen to live on even after his untimely death. Madden received a lifesaving kidney in 2015 and her brother, Travis Jones, received a heart in 2019.
Like Madden, two other people in need of transplants received kidneys from Breen. In total Breen helped save the lives of four people by way of organ donation — one person received Breen’s pancreas and a kidney, another person received his other kidney, his heart went to a third person and a fourth received his liver, Boyer-Facer said.
Breen’s family will not be provided any identifying factors about the four recipients of his organs, but a process exists for Breen’s parents and recipients of those organs, to write a letter that is then coordinated through the transplant hospital’s organ procurement organization allowing for both donor and recipients families to connect. From there, it’s possible the recipient family could agree to meet with Breen’s parents. Perhaps one day they will hear the sound of their son’s beating heart once again.
Breen started working as a busboy at Elmer’s on South Fifth Avenue in Pocatello shortly after his 15th birthday in April and was proud to have been almost immediately promoted to the role of a prep cook.
”Everyone of us noticed he stood tall, proud and more confident after only his second day on the job,” Madden said. “He absolutely loved his job and the people he worked with at Elmer’s, who became more like family than coworkers. David Walker, the kitchen manager at Elmer’s, championed Jorden in the workplace, calling him his work son.”
He was a great student and was known as the class clown for as long as anyone can remember, Boyer-Facer said. He carried that same energy with him into the work setting, too.
“We learned from Jorden’s coworkers that he would introduce himself as ‘Jose’ to the new hires,” Boyer-Facer said. “We are told Jorden had big dreams of becoming a chef one day, though he has always had an interest in cooking. Walker was influential in strengthening his goal.”
Dee Holsten, the general manager of Elmer’s said about Breen, “There are BIG shoes to fill in that prep area,” adding that the front of house and back of house employees would fight over who got Breen for the day because he was such a hard worker.
”Jorden was that kid that seriously every mom wanted their daughter to date,” Holsten said. “He was such a gentleman. He never had a bad day at work. Always, always smiling.”
Not just a hard worker, Breen played hard, too, Boyer-Facer said.
Jorden has had a love for cars, football, dirt bikes and fishing in Alaska since a young age. “Jorden played football from the time he was 12, playing for the Saints in the local youth league and then at Pocatello High School his freshman and sophomore year. He accompanied his great grandparents on multiple fishing trips to Ketchikan, Alaska.
Yes he worked hard and played harder, but what helped define Breen was the insurmountable amount of love he offered.
“Everyone kept Jorden on his toes, especially his little sister AnnaLee and younger cousins,” Boyer-Facer said. “That seemed to be his place in the family. He enjoyed being with the adults but was a role model for the younger kids. No matter the age he loved playing with them and teaching them different things.”
He was an expert fort-builder, too, Boyer-Facer said, adding that he was sure to share his knowledge with his favorite cousin Emmy, who was with him in his GMC Yukon at the time of the crash.
Breen was driving the Yukon eastbound on Highway 30 around 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 23 when he collided with a westbound Kenworth semi.
The 49-year-old Idaho Falls man who was driving the semi was not transported to the hospital, but Emmy was taken via ambulance to Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. It is because of Jorden’s protective nature that Emmy was buckled correctly in her booster seat in the backseat of the SUV.
Breen, who had to be extricated from his totaled vehicle, was transported via ambulance to PMC and was then airlifted to Primary Children’s Hospital. Boyer-Facer said Breen was officially declared dead on Christmas Day but remained on life-support systems for organ donation until the morning of Dec. 27.
“Jorden was Emmy’s best friend and favorite cousin,” Boyer-Facer said. “She could talk about him for days. He taught her so much. Jorden is her hero, and our hero, really, in more ways than we’ll ever know.”
Emmy once hid in a different grandmother’s basement, telling her grandmother she could only come look for her after she called out that she was ready to be found.
“After an hour with no call out from Emmy, grandma finally went down to check on her and it took her forever to find her,” Grandma Kristy Reitz. “Emmy had barricaded herself inside of her playroom and it was Jorden who had taught her how to do that.”
Breen’s family have said that they are grateful for the doctors and nurses who treated him.
A GoFundMe online fundraiser has been set up to help pay for Breen’s expenses and donations can be made at https://bit.ly/3JgEamL. As of Saturday evening, nearly $17,000 of its $50,000 goal had been raised.