Friday, January 4, 2019



Gianna Dugan for the WIZARD WEEKLY
On Tuesday, December 18th, Washingtonville High School’s health classes were given the opportunity to meet the miracle that is Brianna Barker and hear her incredible story first hand. In one class period, just eighty-four minutes, a class of teenagers were enlightened of the life-changing difference one decision can make. It is a decision that every person can and should make: Whether or not to become an organ donor. 

Brianna Barker, a WHS alumni, had been struggling since the age of 7 with her life-threatening arrhythmias and cardiomyopathy, when one evening in June of 2011, at only 13 years old, she went into cardiac arrest. Luckily, her mother, Veronica Barker, and Washingtonville police officer, Charlie Martin, were able to administer CPR on Brianna until the ambulance arrived and could provide the help she needed.  

After 14 long days of fighting for her life, the doctors found a new heart for Brianna, one that could give her the life she deserved. Thanks to organ donor Kaitlyn Nicole Rouse, who was only 16 years old when she lost her own life, Brianna was given a second chance.

Brianna, her mother, Officer Martin, and Mr. Scott Wohl, talked to each of Mr. Lepere and Ms. Damiani’s health classes, educating the students on the importance of organ donation. Mr. Wohl spoke as a representative of Live On NY, “a nonprofit organization committed to helping New York live on through organ and tissue donation and to caring for the families touched by donation,” as it states on the organization’s official website. Mr. Wohl gave an extremely detailed and informative presentation of the process of organ donation from start to finish, while Brianna, Veronica, and Officer Martin spoke of their personal experiences. 

(Left to Right) Officer Martin, Brianna Barker, Veronica Barker,
Mr. Lepere, and Scott Wohl // Gianna Dugan for the WIZARD WEEKLY

Brianna’s story hits home for many of the students at WHS.  Mr. Lepere felt, “...many students were stunned. Having a former Washingtonville student, that roamed these same hallways, return to tell the story of receiving a heart transplant was a moment of shock and astonishment to them.” 

After watching the effects of the guest speakers, Ms. Damiani explained, “[Her] students' eyes were opened. People don't like to talk about the possibility of dying, and removing organs admittedly sounds gory, but it is a question each person will have no choice but to answer when they apply for their driver's license. Everyone should be able to make an educated decision.” 

Now a senior in college with her whole life ahead of her, Brianna Barker is the living proof of the remarkable things organ donations can bring to people and their families.

In his 18th months of educating communities across New York State, Mr. Wohl explained, “Every 18 hours someone in New York State dies waiting for an organ donation.  Only 34% of eligible adults are enrolled as organ donors in New York compared with a national average of 56%.  New York ranks last among the 50 states in both enrollment and donation.” 

Becoming an organ donor is one simple yet important task that could potentially save many lives. Organ donation is truly a beautiful thing, and together we can live on. For more information on organ donation, visit 

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