Much More Than a Valentine – The Gift of a New Heart

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Cody Crandall
Cody Crandall

Article Contributed by
Walt Pickut

When it comes to hearts, what once seemed like a miracle is now routine.
Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the world’s first human heart transplant on December 3, 1967 at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. That was truly the start of something big.

Today, about 5,000 heart transplants are completed every year around the world, including about 2,000 in the USA. Success rates are now very high and more and more patients continue to thrive many years later.

The Numbers Game
Although nearly 35,000 transplants of many kinds of organs are done in the U.S. every year, that helps little more than 1 in 4 of the nearly 120,000 men, women and children who are waiting on the national transplant list. More than 95 percent of Americans are in favor of organ donation, but only 54% are actually signed up as donors.

Cody Crandall is campaigning for people to fix that by registering as an organ donor.

Cody is a popular and talented sportswriter in Jamestown who, last August, contracted a rare, viral cardiac infection. The cause remains a mystery but the result was catastrophic heart failure. He is now on the waiting list for a heart transplant at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. Cody is 24.

A Personal Message
“You could potentially help so many other people in situations just like mine,” Cody recently asked the Gazette to tell our readers. “It’s a simple process and you can join the state’s organ donor registry online at www.passlifeon.org or www.donatelife.ny.gov.” These websites also offer inspiring personal stories, encouragement and hope for both the organ recipients and the friends and loved ones of donors. Cody also said some of his best medicine so far has come from family and friends, neighbors and coworkers in Jamestown.

“The support from people in and around the local community back home has been overwhelming,” Cody told the Gazette. “My family and I sincerely thank everyone for the outpouring of love and prayers. It is helping all of us push through.”

At Jamestown Community College where Cody graduated in 2013, the men’s basketball team – Jayhawks players and coaches alike – will be wearing new, sky-blue T-shirts to tell fans and friends about their month-long “Standing Tall for Cody” organ donor registration campaign.

It’s Not All Hearts
Cody’s organ donor drive, true to his nature, is focused on far more than his own needs. In many cases, one donor can help eight or more people by donating their lifesaving organs.

In addition to the heart, organ donors can provide a liver, pancreas, two lungs, and intestines. Eye corneas can help restore sight and living donors can safely give one of their own two kidneys to a carefully matched recipient, and lifesaving bone marrow and blood itself can be donated by any healthy person at any time.

Learn More
In New York, anyone at least 16 years old can register as an organ donor in person, by mail, or online. Doing this provides legal consent for the retrieval of organs, tissues, and eyes at the time of death.

At the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), when obtaining or renewing a driver’s licensee or state ID card, a person can indicate their desire to become a donor. For more information, visit the nearest DMV office or dmv.ny.gov and go to the Driver License & ID section.

The New York Board of Elections allows citizens to sign up as an organ donor when completing voter registration, which is also available at dmv.ny.gov on the Voter Registration page.

One More Word
“Being here [waiting for a heart transplant] has made me realize how many people are in need of life-saving transplant surgeries,” Cody said. “I certainly urge anyone to consider becoming an organ donor or reconsidering becoming one if they aren’t.”

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.