Barney Cotton, a former Husker football player and assistant coach, explains how his life transplant surgery went and hot it changed his life

LINCOLN, Nebraska – In 2019, Barney Cotton, a former football player for the Huskers and an assistant coach for the team, required a heart transplant to save his life.

Nobody ever anticipates that they will be lying in a hospital bed, in need of an organ, yet at this very moment, there are around 106,000 people in the United States who are in exactly that position. About 360 persons are on the organ transplant waiting list in the state of Nebraska.

Cotton stated that it took him many attempts before he was eventually given a heart.

“Getting all geared up, it’s like getting your game face on, being an old coach and stuff, and all of a sudden, they cancel the game,” he said.

According to medical professionals, if there were a greater number of people willing to donate organs, patients may not have to wait as long.

They are also concerned that the demand for organ donors will increase in the years to come.

“Some early data suggests that we may see more in stage organ failure in the coming years, which is ultimately going to lead to an increased need for organ transplant,” said Kyle Herber, CEO of Live On Nebraska, an organ procurement organization.

Cotton has subsequently established a link with the family of his donor, and he intends to meet with them in person so that they may see their son’s heart beating strongly for the first time.

“I’m thanking them, and as they’ve gotten to know me over the phone or whatever, they are thanking me,” Cotton said. “I’m saying, ‘No, you don’t thank me; I’m thanking you.’ But they are thankful that they’ve got a chance to know the man that is living with the gift of life that their family gave to me.”

Cotton is currently a major benefactor of the Live On Nebraska organization. He believes that his role in life is to inspire other people to become donors and sign up for the registry.

Cotton shared that his mother made the decision to become a donor so that she could assist burn victims. This was something that was very important to Cotton’s mother.

“I had a sister that when she was young, she was burned over, like, 35% of her body,” he said.

The Rally for Life 5K, an event that honors organ donors and their families, will take place in person once again this year. Everyone is welcome to attend this event to get more knowledge, recognize organ donors, and commemorate those donors who saved lives.

“It is to honor their loved ones and for us to say thanks and really celebrate their loved one’s legacy, and their legacy of being a hero,” Herber said. “They ultimately saved someone’s life because they gave what they gave.”

Cotton is aware that his life would take a very different path if he did not receive the new heart.

“I mean, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “Put it that way.”

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