POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — A local heart transplant recipient took an opportunity to teach students at the Mason County Career Center about organ donation through a unique class project.
Brandy Barkey Sweeney underwent a heart transplant in early 2015. As previously reported by Ohio Valley Publishing, Sweeney developed a rare condition, which caused her heart to fail during her third pregnancy. Sweeney was on the transplant list for 31 days before receiving her new heart.
In early February, Sweeney began teaching the Careers in Education course at the Mason County Career Center (MCCC). She was looking to find a project for her eight students that would be unique and benefit the community.
“I was trying to figure out what I could do in my class to help others,” Sweeney said. “During this pandemic, we found out that teachers do a lot of service work, so I wanted to instill in the students that I have that if they are going to become teachers or work in the education field, they’ve got to do things for other people.”
The class began studying the children’s book “Joseph had a Little Overcoat” and focused on the theme of making something out of nothing. Sweeney took that theme and incorporated it with Donate Life Month, which happens to be April. The students took fabric, which Sweeney said was the “nothing,” and made heart-shaped pillows, the “something.”
The no-sew pillows will be sent to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for transplant recipients. Sweeney said in her experience, she could have used a little “cough pillow” or a pillow to put between her chest and seat belt on the drive home. Sweeney said the project taught the students about service and organ donation, while also making a gift that patients would enjoy and appreciate.
“They may not realize it today, but one day they may realize the importance of serving others and maybe this little tidbit they did get will encourage them to do more for others in the future,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney said when she found out she would be having a heart transplant, she knew she was going to use the whole experience to do something good. She reminds people of the importance of being an organ donor and educates people on how to register.
Sweeney said in West Virginia, residents can visit www.core.org to register or update it on their hunting and fishing licenses. In most states, individuals can register to be an organ donor when they renew their driver’s license.
Sweeney said she usually is a guest speaker during Donate Life Month at events about organ donation, however with the pandemic, many of these events are not being held this year.
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Kayla (Hawthorne) Dunham is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, ext. 1992.