Patrick McEntee is waiting for a lifesaving heart transplant and is fundraising for transplant-related expenses via the Help Hope Live Great Lakes Heart Transplant Fund. Pat is one of four winners of our 2017 Touched by Transplant “New Life” Contest in honor of April’s Donate Life Month.
“In 2003, I began a new career as a high school religion teacher. I was paired with a mentor to help me adjust and learn: Bill Westerman, who, some years earlier, went from selling insurance to teaching the Catholic faith to high school students.
From the beginning, I was inspired by Bill, his passion for teaching, and his faith in God. Little by little, I came to know Bill’s story. In addition to having survived polio as a child, he also survived a heart transplant a few years prior to my meeting with him. His life was not without complications, but he continued to give every ounce of fight he had in him to remain a teacher and remind students, at the end of every class, “Don’t be stupid. And always remember: Mr. Westerman loves you.”
I have been a registered organ donor since I got my driver’s license at 16, but my reasoning for it has evolved in the 26 years since. At first, I simply registered because it seemed like the right thing to do. When I met Bill, my views on the subject of organ, eye, and tissue donation changed drastically.
Bill was a tremendous inspiration and example to me. I couldn’t ignore the fact that I would never have met him if it weren’t for the selfless act of another who chose to be an organ donor. Bill took that person’s selfless gift very seriously. He lived every day to prove that his donor’s gift was being appreciated. He wanted to be a good steward of the gift of life.
I started to see the impact one person could have. Bill is one of just eight people who could have been saved by a single donor. Imagine the other stories that could be shared that are only possible because of one person’s choice!
Bill’s donor, and all organ donors, found a unique way to leave a great legacy, a legacy that would last much longer than their earthly lives. That donor didn’t just impact Bill; he impacted Bill’s family, friends, and people who had yet to BECOME Bill’s family and friends, including his future grandchildren.
Bill taught me a lot about being an effective teacher, but he taught me much more about life and being grateful for the gift of extra time on Earth given through the generosity of a stranger. Often in my life, I recognize God’s presence after the fact. Though I never expected to venture down the same road (as Bill), congenital heart conditions led to me being listed for transplant and receiving an implanted left ventricular assist device (LVAD).
Today is my 1,000th day on the heart transplant waiting list. Fortunately, I have the important lessons taught to me by my friend, Bill. I am so grateful for the last two and a half years, which would not have been possible without my LVAD. I have tried to make as much of a positive impact as possible with the extra time that I have been given, a lesson I learned from Bill. Volunteering in my community, particularly with organizations that promote organ, eye, and tissue donation, has given me the opportunity to share my story and to hear the stories of so many others who have been touched by transplant.
Today, both Bill and his donor are gone from this world, but their impact is still being felt many years later. They have left a legacy that not many can claim.
My donor is out there somewhere. I pray for my donor often, though I have no idea who he or she is. I ask all those who pray for me while I wait to pray for my donor too. Without a doubt, the hardest part of the transplant process is knowing that someone will have to die for me to have a chance at a longer and healthier life.
I remind myself that my donor is giving me a gift, and my gratitude for that gift will be shown in the way I use it to make a positive impact on the world. That’s the way Bill did it, and because he did, his organ donor adds a second generation to the impact of his legacy.”
Thank you, Pat, for your reflections. If this story has impacted your perspective, read more of his story or sign his Guestbook at: https://helphopelive.org/campaign/8748