West Virginia man becomes oldest organ donor in U.S. history

West Virginia

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Cecil F. Lockhart has the distinction of being the oldest organ donor in U.S. history.

Lockhart with his family (left). Lockart (right)

The Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) announced Monday, May 10, that it recovered Lockhart’s liver and successfully transplanted it. The recipient of this incredible gift, a woman in her 60s, is doing well. Lockhart’s granddaughters, Stephanie Lanham and Cindy Petitte, said they felt he was a hero for saving a life.

“He’s a hero,” Lanham said. “You know there’s so many people that need different organs and you know, some people just are waiting and waiting, waiting. And unfortunately, some don’t make it. My husband’s aunt was waiting on a liver and she was actually 62. And she passed away. It’ll be two years ago, during COVID. She was actually waiting, you know, to get a liver and she couldn’t get one. So, it’s just so important to be a donor and I just, you know, I’m so happy that he went through with that and decided to do that.”

Lockhart with his family

Cecil was born in Short Pole, W.Va. in 1926, the sixth of seven children.

Lanham said Lockhart was a husband of 75 years, a loving family man and also a business owner. He owned a coal company where, she said, he treated every single one of his employees “with such respect”.

Petitte, Lanham’s sister, said Lockhart loved being with his family as much as possible and trying any new food he could get his hands on. He especially loved sweets.

Like Lanham, she said she was glad he became an organ donor. In fact, Petitte said, her grandfather inspired her to become an organ donor.

“I didn’t realize until now how important it is, honestly,” Petitte said. “And being an organ donor — I’m not registered but I will be due to this. I mean this is just — you know, when it touches home, it helps to understand how important it is. But it’s so important. I mean, at any age you could need an organ and not know why.”

For example, she said, if you’re burned, you could need skin. Maybe, even, the very skin that Lockhart donated to a burn center.

The effects of an organ donation are far-reaching, especially when the organ comes from a healthy donor, such as Lockhart.

Lockart and his loved ones

His granddaughters said he was in good shape and that he lived a life free of smoking and drinking. But, because he wasn’t sick, his passing was more difficult to accept.

“He wasn’t sick, so that’s what makes it hard to lose him,” Petitte said. “Because he had a clean bill of health. My daughter, Ava Petite, was — she said he just had a clean bill of health. And I don’t — you know, it’s hard to accept because it’s sudden. If he was sick, it wouldn’t be so hard.”

However, because Lockhart wasn’t sick, his liver could be successfully donated.

Lanham and Petitte said they were glad that CORE took his liver and didn’t use his age as a limiting factor.

“That’s amazing that CORE looks past that, you know,” Lanham said. “I mean, they should look at each individual as an individual, not how old they are. I mean, if it’s a good working organ, use it no matter what you know. So, I think that’s amazing that CORE does that. I didn’t have — I had no idea.”

Neither did Petitte. But she full-heartedly agreed with CORE’s policy.

Lockhart

“Look past the age look past the person, if it’s a healthy organ, absolutely use it,” Petitte said.

Now that Lockhart’s liver has been used to prolonged someone’s life and his skin donated to a burn center, his granddaughters said the whole family just wants to tell his story.

They said they are sure he would be proud.

“I know he’s here with us now, you know, giving us comfort,” Lanham said. “I know he’s in this room with us, helping us with this interview. And, you know, we can just feel him all around and I’m sure he’d be very proud that we’re talking about this.”  

One person can save the lives of eight by donating organs and heal the lives of 75 through tissue donation. Anyone can sign up to be a donor, regardless of age or medical history. Register as an organ, tissue and cornea donor today at registerme.org/core.

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