Organ donors celebrated in Canonsburg

Canonsburg officials create awareness, proclamation about organ donation

April 12, 2014
The family of Samuel Falcon holds a photo of him after discussing his decision to become an organ donor before his death in June. The family attended a ceremony in Canonsburg Saturday to encourage people to become organ donors. - Mike Jones / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

CANONSBURG – The fact that Cheryl Lancaster’s son, Samuel Falcon, was an organ donor when he died in a dirt bike crash last year doesn’t make the hurt go away as she still tries to cope with his death.

“It doesn’t change it, but out there, it helps someone,” Lancaster said. “I’m still mourning.”

Falcon, 28, of Prosperity, died June 22, a day after his dirt bike crashed into a tree on McKee Road in Canton Township. When Lancaster and her family learned Falcon would not survive, they began discussing whether to have his organs donated. However, they soon found out Falcon already made the choice before the crash to become an organ donor.

His vital organs were given to six people and others received various tissue donations.

“He made the decision for us,” Lancaster said of the organ donations. “I could’ve buried those organs, but what would that have done? There’s six people out there that he saved.”

The importance of people becoming organ donors was the message representatives of the Fox Chapel-based Center for Organ Recovery and Education, or CORE, were trying to send during a special ceremony at Frank Sarris Public Library Canonsburg Saturday. Canonsburg Mayor Dave Rhome gave the CORE officials a proclamation declaring Saturday “Blue and Green Day” to raise awareness for organ donations.

Mark Succheralli Jr., a professional services liaison for CORE, said there are many misconceptions about organ donations. The one he hears the most is medical professionals won’t do everything in their power to save someone’s life if they are a registered donor.

“In the middle of a cardiac crisis or accident, the doctors and nurses don’t say, ‘Wait! Grab his license to see if he’s an organ donor.’ No one looks at that until all options are exhausted,” Succheralli said.

He said the need for organ donors is constantly increasing with more than 120,000 on the national transplant waiting list. Most people know of vital organ donations that happen after people die, Succheralli said, but “tissue” transplants, such has corneas, tendons, skin and even heart valves, can help others live better lives.

“We celebrate what your loved ones gave,” Succheralli said.

A photo of Falcon with a message about his life and organ donation is set inside a glass case inside the library’s lobby to remember donors this month.

The hourlong ceremony in Frank Sarris Public Library was especially important to its namesake’s family. Bill Sarris noted how a kidney donation for his father in 2002 helped allow him to live another eight years before he died of heart disease at 78 in March 2010. Bill Sarris said his father paid it forward by becoming an organ donor before his death, unbeknownst to the rest of the family.

“We thought he didn’t have anything that worked,” Sarris said. “You’d be amazed what still works after (death) and what you can give. One little check mark (on a driver’s license application) can save so many lives and make so many lives better.”

The Sarris family put that into action nearly a decade ago with an endowment that benefited Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute of UPMC where Sarris received his kidney transplant. The Frank Sarris Outpatient Clinic of UPMC helps patients before and after organ transplants.

“We want to make sure people can still live a great life,” Sarris said. “The families will be happy that their family (member) gets to have a new life.”

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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