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Eagle Scout Candidate Puts Heart Into Organ Donor Project

Carpinteria's Johnathan Baird uses his service project to raise awareness about the need for lifesaving donations

Editor’s note: Johnathan Baird, 15, of Carpinteria, is an Eagle Scout candidate in Boy Scout Troop 50 of Los Padres Council of the Boy Scouts of America. His service project is designed to raise awareness about the need for organ, eye and tissue donors in California. The following is the text of a speech he presented to the Carpinteria City Council on April 13 urging the council to accept a proclamation from the mayor declaring April as DMV/Donate Life California Month.

What if you, your child or your spouse got sick and were dying, and the only hope for survival was receiving an organ transplant? What if there weren’t any organs available? Nearly 100,000 men, women and children in America are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant. Unfortunately, about 18 people die each day due to a lack of available organs.

My name is Johnathan Baird, and I am an Eagle Scout candidate in the Boy Scouts of America Troop 50 in Carpinteria. I am working on my Eagle Scout Service Project to raise awareness about the urgent need for organ, eye and tissue donation in California. To fulfill one aspect of this campaign, I have asked Carpinteria Mayor Gregg Carty to declare April as DMV/National Donate Life Month in Carpinteria.

My motivation for this project came from my cousin, Natalie, who at age 12 suffered liver failure and was hospitalized for three months. After all avenues of medical treatment options were exhausted, she was placed on the organ transplant waiting list. She and her family desperately waited for a liver to become available. Tragically, a young boy died as a result of an accident. Luckily, his family chose to donate his organs to save the lives of others. His liver saved two lives: Natalie’s and an infant at the same hospital. My cousin is now 14 years old and doing all the activities normal kids do, and feeling great. It was after her life was saved by her donor’s generosity, that I realized the importance of organ donation.

For my Eagle Scout Service Project, I hope to sign up at least 100 people as organ, eye and tissue donors. By providing information on the benefits of and the process involved in donating, I hope to dispel common myths and fears people may have that would prevent them from becoming organ donors.

As a donor, you can save and enhance the lives of more than 50 people. The organs and tissue that can be donated include the heart, intestines, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, bones, corneas, heart valves, skin, tendons and veins. Your age and medical condition shouldn’t deter you from signing up. There is no cost for the donor or his or her family and it doesn’t alter funeral arrangements. You also may donate lifesaving organs while you are alive. Be a living kidney or partial liver, lung, intestine or pancreas donor. One of the easiest things you can donate several times a year is whole blood or platelets.

To get the word out into the community, I plan to speak at several service organization meetings from Carpinteria to Goleta, hoping to persuade individuals to sign up as donors. I also will contact some of the major local companies in town to get them involved by allowing me to hand out informational packets to their employees. In June, there will be an informational public event at Carpinteria Community Church to sign up individuals as well.

If you are interested in signing up, here is information you should know. Donate Life California is a nonprofit Organ and Tissue Donor Registry dedicated to saving the lives of thousands of Californians awaiting lifesaving transplants. According to the Donate Life California Web site:

» Right now, more than 21,000 Californians are waiting for an organ transplant. That’s 21 percent of the more than 100,000 people waiting across our country. Tragically, one-third of them will die while waiting.

» Before 2004, no registry had existed for those who wished to give consent to be an organ and/or tissue donor. Historically, while signing a donor card and placing the pink dot on your driver’s license served as an important symbol of your intent, it did not place you on any list or registry.

» Now, Donate Life California allows you to express your commitment to becoming an organ, eye and tissue donor. The registry guarantees your plans will be carried out when you die.

» Since July 1, 2006, individuals who renew or apply for a driver’s license or ID with the DMV now have the opportunity to also register their decision to be a donor in the Donate Life California Registry, and the pink “DONOR” dot symbol is pre-printed on the applicant’s driver license or ID card.

You have the power to donate life. Sign up today at www.donatelifecalifornia.org to become an organ and tissue donor. Your generosity can save up to eight lives through organ donation and enhance another 50 through tissue donation.

If I have compelled anyone to sign up through my awareness campaign, send an e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or please contact me if your business would like to take part in a Donate Life Workplace Campaign. I am keeping a tally and hope to reach my goal of 100 donors.

I also would like to issue a challenge to those already registered organ donors to help me spread the word and help recruit at least one more donor. You could be a lifesaver giving someone a second chance at life. Or the life saved could be your own or the life of a loved one if you ever are put in the situation of needing a transplant.

— Johnathan Baird, 15, is an Eagle Scout candidate in Boy Scout Troop 50 in Carpinteria.

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» on 04.28.09 @ 08:28 AM

This is another excellent example of some of the great things that the Scouting program does for youth. Leadership, good citizenship, team work, problem solving and community service are just a few of skills this young man has gained from being a boy scout.  Like many other Eagle Scouts, he will go on to do great things and will be a leader in his community.  Congratulations Johnathan.  We are all proud of you and what you have achieved.

» on 04.28.09 @ 10:52 AM

This is a timely, important, and humane project, designed to help enhance and save lives. Thanks, Jonathan!

» on 04.28.09 @ 12:00 PM

Congratulations Johnathan!  You made me check my driver’s license because I signed up back in the early 80’s.  Keep up the good work!  Hopefully you’ll get more than 100 new sign-ups.

» on 04.28.09 @ 12:05 PM

This is very worthwhile project but I can’t believe the gay lobby hasn’t weighed in on how despicable Scouts are. Wait for it, in 5-4-3-2-1 ...

» on 04.28.09 @ 12:09 PM

Thank you so much for taking on this project. My now healthy 29-year-old daughter had a lung transplant in 2004 from a donor who had the pink dot on his driver’s license. We think about him and his family every day.

» on 04.28.09 @ 12:30 PM

While a nice project, his organization, Boy Scouts of America, still discriminates in its membership and employment against gay people.

Is such discrimination still good “leadership, good citizenship, team work, problem solving and community service”?

» on 04.28.09 @ 01:49 PM

Very nice project.  Two things, though.  First, the Donate Life California website says that organs cannot be donated after the heart stops beating.  That is not always true.  Some hospitals have a Donation After Cardiac Death (DCD) policy where the patient can be withdrawn from life support, the doctors wait for the heart to stop beating, then a few minutes after death is declared harvesting of the organs proceeds.  You will have to ask the doctors if this is an option at your loved one’s hospital if you are considering withdrawing her from life support.  Secondly, while not as dramatic as whole organ donation, tissue donation is extremely important.  While a donated heart can help a single person, the four valves in a heart can each help a person with heart valve disease live a better life, often without dangerous blood thinners.  So even if your loved one doesn’t meet brain death criteria that make donation simpler, she can still make a tremendous difference in the lives of many, many other people.  And those people, while they will never know her name, will never ever forget her.

» on 04.28.09 @ 04:11 PM

God bless you Jonathan, and I know He will, as you continue with this most worthwhile endeavor.  A group of us had the privilege of praying for Natalie during that sressful time, and to know she is now well and happy is great news!  You are an amazing young man, and a wonderful example.  I’m certain you will have overwhelming success and responses through your Eagle Project for the Boy Scouts.

» on 04.30.09 @ 08:56 AM

Great job Johnathan! A very worthy cause and fantastic community service.  Your efforts will help many families like ours who struggled through the experience of having a loved one desperately wait for an organ transplant.  Our daughter Natalie was one of the lucky ones whose transplant was able to happen before her health deteriorated.  One family’s tragic loss and selfless donation gave life to our family.

» on 04.30.09 @ 11:54 PM

Johnathan, You have taken a very worthwhile need in the community that helps save lives and make some lives do a complete 180. While most people don’t want to get involved or give of themselves for mostly selfish reasons, how can you not want to help a fellow human begin to have a better life, by saving their life. That is a very powerful and deeply loving experience. I’m already a DMV donor should there be usable parts when I die. Why not offer them to someone else if your life gets cut short, or if it will not take your quality of life south if you are still living. Awesome idea. While no major medical needs have affected my family to date, but if something did come along, I would want to reach out to an organization such as this. Condratulations Johnathan. Awesome project!!

» on 05.01.09 @ 08:23 AM

Kudos to Jonathan for choosing such an important issue. Everyone should sign their donor card. Not only can potentially help many people, you reduce the need for living donors.

Many suffer from bleeding, blood clots, intestinal binding, testicular swelling, reduced adrenal gland function, hypertension, chronic fatigue & severely reduced kidney function, just to name a few.

In fact, some living donors have ended up on the waiting list themselves.

In addition, living donors can suffer from depression, anxiety & PTSD-like symptoms, yet transplant centers offer no aftercare or support.

And some LDs have been unable to procure health or life insurance post-donation.

In fact, while the medical community has been harvesting organs from living people for over 50 years, they have never felt us important enough to follow or study in a comprehensive manner. Consequently, they don’t really know if it’s safe.

Educate yourself: http://www.livingdonor101.com

» on 05.01.09 @ 05:59 PM

Congratulations on your choice of projects Johnathan!  Giving of ones self to their fellow human is the noblest of all endeavers.  You are to be commended for your concern and work concerning this worthwhile project.  You exemplify what it means to participate in the Scouting Program.  Live the precepts of Scouting throughout your life and you will know what it means to live a fulfilling life.  I am so proud of you.

» on 05.05.09 @ 08:07 PM

What a worthwhile project! So many people do not understand how being a donor can be a gift of life to someone and give a second chance at life! I am signed up to be a donor and your project has confirmed my decision!!  Let us know how your project moves along!

» on 05.06.09 @ 09:20 AM

Great project.  We are signed up in Montana by checking a box on our driver’s licneses.

» on 08.26.09 @ 01:14 PM

Glad to see that this type of project is still going strong.

This was a Presidential Good Turn in 1986 that was originated from a Boy Scout Eagle Project from around Baltimore centering on organ donor awareness.

» on 09.10.09 @ 01:11 PM

Good job jonnythan…

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