ATHENS BOROUGH — For many years, former Athens Area High School art teacher Dave Webster guided students with their creativity. Now, as a representative of the Center for Organ Recovery and Education, he hopes to lead them to registering as organ donors.
Webster joined Krista Goodman’s health classes Wednesday to promote the life saving decision in advance of today being National Donor Day.
“One person can save up to eight lives and enhance 75 others,” he said. “If you pass away and you aren’t an organ donor, you’re taking a lot of people with you.”
Webster compared the list of those waiting for an organ donation to the crowd that could fill Penn State University’s Beaver Stadium.
“There’s 8,000 people alone in Pennsylvania waiting for a transplant,” he explained. “That means one person every eight hours passes away waiting for that transplant.”
Back in 2014, after visiting the Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital due to experiencing shortness of breath and finding out he only had 15% of heart function, Webster ended up in the Cleveland Clinic on a transplant list himself. Two days later, he received a heart from a man who had yet to reach his 30th birthday named Matthew.
“Finding a recipient can be tough,” Webster explained. “You have to have the perfect blood type, weight and height have to be close to a match, location and time is crucial to get the heart to the recipient quickly. Age, race, gender, religion doesn’t matter.”
Although 90% of Americans support organ donation, Webster said only 48% have actually signed up to donate their organs upon their death. With that, Webster dispelled the myths that doctors would leave an organ donor to die in an emergency situation, that the “rich and famous” receive organ donations first, or that someone could be too old or too sick to donate their organs. He also pointed out that a majority of those requiring organ donations are in need due to a disease, and only a few of the cases are due to someone not taking care of their body.
“Now, there was a high school kid in Detroit that needed a double lung transplant because he was vaping,” he noted. “So, you folks that are doing any type of vaping — and I hope you’re not — stop.”
With organ donation, Webster stressed the impact it can make on many lives, and recalled the story from a man he met while attending a festival in State College who had lost his son last year.
“He was amazed at the list of letters coming in, saying thank you for your donation. I was able to live again, or I was able to see again, or I was able to walk again,” Webster said. “He got 36 letters.”
For more information about the Center for Organ Recovery and Education, or to register as a donor, visit core.org.