Michael Jones was stricken Saturday morning in the bathroom of his Temple Hills home as he was getting ready to take a friend's 14-year-old son to a wrestling demonstration. The plans were typical, his family said, of the man who compensated for an often-reckless youth by encouraging youngsters going through the difficult adolescent years.
Jones, 28, died yesterday at Greater Southeast Community Hospital of an apparent cerebral hemorrhage that doctors say may have been related to a longstanding seizure disorder.
His family decided to donate his organs to patients awaiting transplants and his wife and his mother said their gesture was in keeping with his spirit of service.
"Mike was a giver, not a taker," Lois Jones said last night of her only child. "Maybe someday, I will get a letter that says, 'My darling son is living because of yours.' "
Jones, a robust man, qualified as a total donor, said Dan Smith of the Washington Hospital Center, who coordinates the donor programs of area hospitals. His heart, liver, kidneys, corneas and skin will help as many as 11 persons, Smith said.
"It's a nice touch to a tragic story," said Dr. Dennis Frank, director of critical care services at Greater Southeast Community Hospital.
Michael Jones was recalled as a tall, barrel-chested man with dark hair, green eyes and a mischievous habit of popping into his mother's apartment and greeting her with the child's plaintive demand, "Hey, Mom, got a dollar?"
At his death, Jones seemed to be at an important juncture in his life.
He and his wife of six months, Cara, 23, were happy; they were already planning "a second honeymoon" in the Poconos, she said. He had earned two associate degrees, in law enforcement and criminology, from Prince George's Community College and had decided to study to become a lawyer, perhaps specializing in helping teen-agers in trouble.
Jones had recently resigned a sales job with a chain of spas and was hoping to get work in a wine store, following a special interest, while continuing study toward a bachelor's degree at Bowie State College.
On Monday, as Jones lay in the coma from which he never regained consciousness, Bowie State called to inform him that he qualified for financial aid, and a wine distributor called to offer him a job. Cara Jones, who said she already sensed there was no hope for her husband's recovery, had to explain the tragic circumstances.
To Lois Jones, Michael was the miracle child who arrived after she had already lost five babies through miscarriages and complications attending delivery.
A bright boy, he was allowed to skip two grades in elementary school. That advancement placed him with an older crowd, his mother said, which, she believes, eventually contributed to his "wild period."
"He smoked marijuana, he got into fights," Lois Jones said. "When he was 16 and got his driver's license, he broke every law ever made. That kind of thing."
But at 20, she said, her son renewed his interest in academics and "finally grew up."
Because he could identify with their confusion, Jones began taking an interest in the neighborhood teen-agers and their problems. He worked as a volunteer at a home for emotionally disturbed children.
A jogger and weightlifter, Jones encouraged the youths to get involved in sports activities and he often took them to gyms and sporting events.
Cara Jones recalls that her dates with Michael often involved taking a couple of 13-year-olds to a swimming pool.
"He liked problem children," his wife said. "He could do something for them because he understood them."
While Jones was open about his adolescence, he was more reticent about his seizure disorder, which was diagnosed when he was 16 years old.
He received daily dosages of dilantin, an antiseizure medication, and had not suffered a seizure in more than three years, his mother said.
"He didn't really like to dwell on it," Cara Jones said. "It upset him when he went for job interviews because he never lied about it, and he had his suspicions that people sometimes discriminated against him when they knew he had epilepsy. But it was not something he talked about a lot."
Recently, she said, he had stopped taking his medication as regularly as he should.
"I guess it was the pressure of being a newlywed and wanting to take care of me and quitting his job and everything else," Cara Jones said.
On Saturday morning, as Cara Jones drowsed in bed, she heard a strange noise and a loud thump in the bathroom, where her husband was preparing to take a shower. She found him face down in the bathtub. He was not breathing and although paramedics were able to revive him, his doctors said he suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen. For the last five days of his life, he was kept alive by a respirator. He was pronounced dead at 11:50 a.m. yesterday.
Despite their grief, his family members knew there was only one answer to the question of whether to donate his organs.
"It hurts," Cara Jones said, "but if it helps someone, so be it. Michael would have wanted it that way."