By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (Septemeber 25, 2016) — Stephenville resident David Swearingen and Hurst man Donnie Speers are walking among us today because someone gave a piece of themselves to give them a second chance at life.
The men are among those helping the Texas Department of Public Safety and its Donate Life Texas program, telling others how they can save lives like theirs.
Swearingen, Speers, Lydia Stoner of Donate Life Texas and DPS senior public information officer Dub Gillum were at the Stephenville DPS and Driver License Office Wednesday to promote their cause and recognize employees of the drivers license office for their efforts in registering Texans for the Donate Life Texas organ, eye and tissue donor registry.
In 2015, Texas Driver Licesne office staff state wide helped 1,888,334 customers join or renew their commitment to the registry, but Stoner and others say there can never be too many donors.
“We try to tell people on the fence how many lives they can save,” said Stoner, who traveled to Stephenville with Speers to meet Swearingen and Gillum for a presentation of certificates to the Stephenville Driver License Office. “People are always amazed how many lives they can impact.”
Swearingen says donors can help up to 50 patients with everything from skin, veins, organs, eyes and more.
Swearingen has lived 35 years since receiving a kidney from his brother, George Weldon Swearingen, Jr., a living donor. Speers is here despite being given a death sentence by doctors, thanks organs donated by James C. Essary, on April 18, 2014.
“On May 21, 2013, I went to the hospital and was throwing up blood. By 4 p.m. that afternoon I had kidney, liver and lung failure and was bleeding out my esophagus,” Speers grimly explained. “I had Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency and full blown emphysema.
Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is an inherited disorder that may cause lung disease and liver disease, according to the US National Library of Medicine online. Emphysema is a normal result of the of the disorder.
Doctors gave Speers six months to live, but he just couldn’t accept that.
“I kept fighting and it took 10 months to get healthy enough that I could go on the transplant list, and as soon as I did I went right to the top because that’s how sick I was,” Speers said. “I needed new lungs or I was going to die.”
But Essary was thoughtful enough to join the donor registry, and because of it Speers is alive today. Much like Swearingen is alive thanks to his brother.
“I got a second chance,” Speers said. “I want to make sure other people get a second chance, too.”
Gillum, himself a survivor of being shot 10 times as a highway patrolman in the 1990s, knows just how Speers feels.
“The good Lord has his plan,” Gillum said. “He has his plan and everyone else has their plan, but his plan is THE plan.”
Swearingen, Speers and many others are here because someone assisted his plan with their donations.
“I shouldn’t be here,” said Speers, who has a tattoo on his left arm showing his appreciation for Essary, his donor, while his right arm bears a “survivor” tattoo. “This man and the good Lord are the reasons I’m here, and someone else can be here if others will register to give, too.”