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Baseball Player's Death Sheds Light on Young Organ Donors

On Tuesday, friends and family members said goodbye to the young Waynesville baseball player Patrick Clegg, who died after being struck in the head by a pitch in a baseball game. Even though the teenager has been laid to rest, he may have saved up to five strangers' lives by donating his major organs. KSMU’s Kristian Kriner looks into the special cases of children as organ donors.

Organ and tissue specialists say over 100,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for organ donations, and at least 1,700 of them are in Missouri.

Peggy Wobbema is a staff chaplain and chairperson of the organ and tissue committee at Cox Hospital.

She says, sadly, several young people are in car accidents and end up brain dead.

Many of their vital organs are donated.

Wobbema says anyone can become an organ donor, but young donors must have parental consent.

“All children have to have parental consent, even though someone who is 16 years old gets their drivers license. They say I want to be an organ donor. That is their decision, but it’s still up to the family because that person is not a legal adult yet to make that decision,” Wobbema said.

The major organs that people donate are the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and pancreas.

Wobbema says if one person donates body tissues like bones, skin, eyes or heart valves, he or she could be helping up to 50 people.

She says the story that has impacted her the most was a seven year old child whose family decided to donate the child’s organs because the child loved to share toys and give to others.

“I think to see the parents so willing to allow their child’s life to keep giving was very touching and you just feel so much empathy for those families. Because they are really courageous to make the decision to allow their loved ones life to keep on going,” Wobbema said.

Wobbema says it’s a privilege to provide comfort to families in their times of distress.

She says her main job is to give those families hope.

“A lot of families will say that by allowing my loved one to be a donor it helped my grief. And so giving the families that option, I know will help them in the long run to know that they have a way to celebrate their loved ones life even after their death,” Wobbema said.

Wobbema says everyone should consider becoming an organ donor; she says it allows everyday people to become heroes by saving someone’s life.

For KSMU News, I’m Kristian Kriner.