On June 19th, Cletus Schneider III was sitting down to dinner with his family. In just a matter of minutes, an average night took a tragic turn. Cletus began choking on his food and before his wife, Carrie, realized what was happening, he had already collapsed. After two days in the hospital, he was declared brain dead and his wife was faced with a heartbreaking decision. Ultimately, his sudden death saved three lives, helped 50 people in need and brought much-needed attention to the importance of organ donation.
Cletus’s story may have gone largely unnoticed if it weren’t for a single photo that went viral on social media. Carrie was walking with her husband and saying final goodbyes as he was being wheeled to the operating room to have his organs harvested. As she turned the final corner, she saw over 150 hospital staff members lining the hallway to show their respects and honor someone who was about to touch the lives of over 50 other patients. Carrie paused to capture the moment and eventually posted the touching moment online. From there, the photo spread and Carrie and her family received messages of support from people all around the world.
Hope overshadows tragedy
If there is a silver lining to this tragic story, it is that Cletus’s death has helped to highlight the importance of organ donation. While the doctors weren’t able to save Cletus, he was able to change the lives of dozens of people simply by being an organ donor. Over the last few decades, the organ transplant shortage has only continued to increase as more people are added to the waiting list. Currently, there are over 114,000 people on the organ transplant waiting list, with another person being added every 10 minutes.
Part of the shortage is due to the fact that organ donation recipients often face complications and their bodies reject the new organs. This means that those who are able to receive a transplant may need a second transplant in the future, which only increases the demand for healthy organs. While immunosuppressant drugs are able to help patients avoid immediate organ rejection, the long-term use of these powerful drugs can come with its own health complications. Researchers are working hard to develop new solutions to ensure successful transplants and reduce demand, but for now, the gap between supply and demand continues to grow.
Another contributing factor to the organ donor shortage is simply a lack of awareness. A full 95% of Americans support organ donation, but only 54% are registered as donors. Even then, about 2% of all registered donors are actually viable donors at the time of death. As a result, around 20 people die each day while waiting for a transplant as the need for vital organs continues to grow.
Become a donor
Fortunately, states are taking proactive steps to get more people registered as donors. While laws vary from state to state, in most places, you can register at your local DMV. All you have to do is check the organ donation box when you apply for or renew your license. You can also register online in a matter of minutes.
In the wake of Cletus’s death and the attention garnered by the hospital staff’s gesture of support and compassion, more families are discussing organ donation and taking steps to make sure that some good can come out of even the worst tragedies. Ultimately, his legacy will live on in all of the people he was able to help and the many more who were affected by his story. If you would like to learn more about organ donation and whether it is the right choice for you, visit Organdonor.gov