HAZELTON • Five months before he died, 15-year-old Robert Tayler Sellers was getting his driver’s license and registered as an organ donor.
The Valley High freshman died in May 2010 in a tractor accident.
His organs had been through too much stress to donate, mother Jana Sellers told hundreds of students Friday, but she decided to honor his wishes by donating his corneas.
For a long time, the Valley Elementary teacher hadn’t heard anything about the recipients. But then she learned that her son’s donation is benefiting a 37-year-old woman in Idaho Falls and a 38-year-old man in Boise.
Bryler Reed organized an assembly Friday for his senior project at Valley High School to educate classmates about organ and tissue donation.
“I have some personal ties to organ donation,” Bryler told the Times-News, as his friend Robert Sellers and a cousin both were donors.
He said he wasn’t trying to persuade his classmates to donate their organs, but he wants them to be able to make an informed decision.
His aunt, Kelly Duren, talked to students about donating son Rocky’s organs after he died in a motorcycle accident in 2006.
Rocky’s donation saved seven lives and restored sight to two people. “I can tell you that our tragedy has also been our salvation,” Duren said.
Heart recipient Steve Satake told students that a transplant saved his life. Satake taught physical education and coached in Burley from 1995 to 2004 before moving to the Treasure Valley.
He said he was born with a heart defect but lived a normal life until he began having heart arrhythmias at age 32. After a couple of years of medical interventions, he was placed on the transplant list in 2009.
Satake showed students a 2011 photo in which he’s holding his newborn twin girls. “That wouldn’t have happened if someone hadn’t stepped up and been a donor.”
April is National Donate Life Month.
More than 121,000 people in the U.S. now are waiting for a lifesaving transplant, according to Intermountain Donor Services. Last year, nearly 29,000 people received transplants.
Idaho ranks 10th or 11th in the nation for its per capita number of registered organ donors, said Alex McDonald, spokesman for Intermountain Donor Services. Residents must be 18 or older to register.
Some have the misconception that first responders or medical staff wouldn’t try to save an organ donor’s life at the scene of an accident or at a hospital.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” McDonald told students.
Megan Moore, a Boise State University student, told the students how her brother died last year waiting for a liver transplant.
As Miss Treasure Valley, her platform is raising awareness about organ donation.
Registering as a donor is as simple as checking “yes” on a driver’s license form, Moore said. “One more donor could have saved my brother’s life.”