BY DARLA SLIPKE Comment on this article 0 Comments
Published: May 3, 2010

WEATHERFORD — When Southwestern Oklahoma State University nursing instructor Tamra Weimer teaches about organ and tissue donation, she talks about her youngest son, Andrew.

Andrew decided to be a donor when he was 12 years old. At the time, he told his mom he wouldn’t need "all that stuff” where he was going, so someone else might as well get some use from it.

Three years later, Andrew was killed in an all-terrain vehicle accident during a family vacation in Ohio. He died instantly, so his major organs weren’t salvageable for donation. But the family donated his eyes.

Weimer shares Andrew’s story as part of an organ and tissue donation education class she teaches at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford. This is the third year Weimer received grant funding for the program. She teaches her students about the donation process, and then they host educational sessions with high school students and health care professionals.

"I wanted to make a difference,” Weimer said. "Andrew was just that type of person, and this is a way for me to give back in his honor.”

More than 100,000 people are on the national transplant list. Another person is added every 11 minutes, Weimer said. She said about 18 Americans die every day while waiting for a transplant. A donor can save or improve the lives of up to 50 people, Weimer said. "That’s a phenomenal gift,” she said.

But the purpose of the donation education class isn’t to persuade people to become organ donors. Rather, Weimer and her students hope to provide information that will encourage students and others to talk to their families and make an educated decision about whether they want to donate their organs. "They need to have that conversation with each other now, before it gets to a point where there is a tragedy,” Weimer said.

Even though Southwestern Oklahoma State University senior Addie Gill is a registered donor, she said there was a lot she didn’t know about the donation process before Weimer’s class. Now she is able to talk to her family and others about the donation process. Inspiring experiences

She and her classmates perform skits and give presentations when they visit high schools. Weimer also brings in people who have been affected by organ or tissue donation to talk about their experiences.

Bonita Wingard, a senior, was inspired to enroll in the class after one of her friends, who was a donor, died last summer. Wingard said many students have misconceptions about the donation process, and some are nervous about the idea of donating.

"We need to get the word out there and educate people,” Wingard said.

Weimer said she hopes the class will cause people to consider organ, tissue and eye donation. She said she needed Andrew’s death to be a beginning, not the end, which is why she tells his story to show how the gift of organ donation can change lives.

"I’m proud of him,” Weimer said.