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W.Va. man oldest organ donor in U.S.

PITTSBURGH — A West Virginia man was celebrated this week as the oldest organ donor in American history.

The Center for Organ Recovery & Education announced this week that it recovered the liver from the oldest recorded organ donor in United States history, as confirmed by the United Network for Organ Sharing. The recipient, a woman in her 60s, is doing well, officials said.

The gift came from 95-year-old Cecil F. Lockhart of Welch.

Lockhart’s family said he was moved to become an organ donor following the death of his son, Stanley, in 2010, after which Stanley healed the lives of 75 people through tissue donation and restored sight to two others through cornea donation.

Lockhart is survived by Helen Cline Lockhart, his “best girl” and loving wife of 75 years, his daughter, Sharon White, and his son, Brian Lockhart, as well as three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

“He was a generous person when he was alive, and we are filled with pride and hope knowing that, even after a long, happy life, he is able to continue that legacy of generosity,” Lockhart’s daughter, Sharon White, said. “When my brother was a donor after he passed away a few years ago, it helped my dad to heal. And today, knowing his life is continuing through others really is helping us through our grief too.”

Lockhart was born in Short Pole in 1926, the sixth of seven children. He was a proud coal miner working the mines in West Virginia for more than 50 years. Lockhart served as a corporal in the United States Army during World War II.

According to Bill White, his son-in-law, Lockhart was very proud to be a veteran: “Just as he fought for our country’s freedom 75 years ago in World War II, he would be proud to know that he’s fighting for someone else today, as an organ donor.”

Bill White said that at Lockhart’s funeral, which included full military honors, the family asked everyone to register as an organ donor to honor his memory.

“CORE is incredibly proud to have been able to make this historic organ donation possible,” said Susan Stuart, CORE president & CEO. “This landmark in the field of transplantation is just another example of CORE’s pioneering legacy and commitment to innovation, which, over the last 40 years, has given 6,000 people in the United States the opportunity to save more than 15,000 others as organ donors.”

More than 30% of all deceased organ donors in the United States since 1988 have been age 50 or older, according to UNOS data. So far in 2021, 39% of all U.S. deceased organ donors have been age 50 or older. That’s up more than 8% from just 20 years ago. Seven percent of deceased organ donors since 1988 have been age 65 or older. In the last 20 years, 17 people over age 90 have died and become organ donors in the United States, with the first instance occurring in 2001.

The record-breaking donation in West Virginia remarkably took place during Older Americans Month, which is observed in the United States every May to acknowledge the contributions of past and current older persons to the country. UNOS Chief Medical Officer David Klassen said that Lockhart’s contribution is indeed significant.

“Too often, people mistakenly believe there is an age limit associated with being an organ donor,” said Klassen. “The truth is, no one is ever too old or too young to give the gift of life. Every potential donor is evaluated on a case-by-case basis at the time of their death to determine which organs and tissue are suitable for donation. Cecil’s generous and historic gift is a perfect example of that.”

One person can save the lives of eight by donating organs and heal the lives of 75 through tissue donation. Anyone can sign up to be a donor, regardless of age or medical history. Register as an organ, tissue and cornea donor at registerme.org/core.

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