The Freedom High School senior recently partnered with the California Transplant Donor Network to educate the community about the importance of organ and tissue donation as part of his Eagle Scout project. While the project helped culminate his 12 years of Boy Scout training, Davis’ project also helped him honor his mother, who received a heart and lung transplant in 1995.
“My mom was diagnosed with primary pulmonary hypertension when she was 21,” Davis said. “Doctors didn’t expect her to make it without a transplant. They gave her three years to live. She held on for 10 years and then got a heart and lung transplant. She lived for 15 more years. I was able to get more time with her because someone donated their organs and saved her life.”
Davis’ mother Paula died in November of 2010 after a long bout with organ rejection – just five days before her 50th birthday. The painful loss caused Davis to take time away from scouting in order to grieve, but when he decided to pursue the Eagle Scout designation, the top rank in Boy Scouts, he knew he wanted to do something to educate the public about organ and tissue donation.
According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, more than 100,000 patients in the United States await an organ transplant, and approximately 21,000 Californians are on the National Organ Transplant Waiting List. Of those, one in three will die waiting for a match.
Last month, Davis, 18, managed an organ and tissue donation information booth at Oakley Town Center. His mission was to educate Oakley residents and register people to become organ donors. While the California Transplant Donor Network volunteer coordinator told Davis that signing five people would be considered a huge accomplishment, Davis and his friends were able to register 23.
“All I wanted was to register one person,” Davis said. “I would have been happy with just one, but to get 23 people registered and to have educated countless others – I can’t describe how satisfying that is. People don’t realize that they have a special gift to give that saves lives. Organ donation from one person can save up to eight people. And for the families of those eight people, that organ donor is an angel. I know it changed my life.”
As Davis’ mother couldn’t have children of her own due to her condition, she and husband Derle adopted Jonathan, who was only a year old when his mother underwent her transplant and survived to become a strong role model in his life. “My mom was crazy, but a good kind of crazy,” Davis said with a laugh. “She was such a loving person. She was a mom to everyone, but she had a strong personality. She always liked things done her way. She was smart. She was a great judge of character. I don’t think I’ll ever meet another woman as strong as her.”
Davis and his mother enjoyed going to concerts and attending festivals. His favorite family memories are of the three of them traveling and going on adventures. Today, his pastimes include camping and fishing, playing guitar, spending time with his girlfriend and working out. Davis plans to attend Los Medanos College, where he’ll prepare for a career as a firefighter or emergency medical technician.
“When my mom fainted, the firefighters were the first to respond, and that really opened my eyes,” Davis said. “I want to be a first responder. I want to help people. I’m used to putting others ahead of me. Helping others makes me happy.
“It’s funny. When I was younger, my mom said she wanted me to be a firefighter, but I wasn’t interested. Now, I can’t think of a more rewarding profession.”
Regardless of his career path, Davis will continue to volunteer with the California Transplant Donor Network and promote organ and tissue donation by sharing his story.
For more information about the California Transplant Donor Network, visit www.ctdn.org.