Her name is Pam Silvestri. Her occupation is finding superheroes.
Yet Silvestri doesn’t work with Spiderman, Superman or Batman. She deals with organ donors or what she likes to call real life superheroes.
Silvestri has worked with Southwest Transplant Alliance, a local organ donation agency, for the past 12 years. Her goal is to not only spread the word of how miraculous of an event organ donation can be, but to make sure as many people as possible are aware that there is really just one key if they want to become an organ donor - make sure their family knows.
“I think a lot of people in general think it is a good idea to donate their organs,” Silvestri said. “They stop at the point thinking they have to get a lawyer, or get it in writing. In reality all you have to do is talk to a family member about it.”
Formerly involved in the field of sports, Silvestri liked her job, but just didn’t think it was what she was supposed to be doing. It ended up being fate that would bring her to an occupation in the world of organ donations.
“I enjoyed it but I didn’t see it as a place that changed other people’s lives,” Silvestri said. “I ran into a group called ‘Spare Parts,’ a group of transplant recipients that played in a Hoop It Up tournament in St. Louis. The news made a pretty big story out of it, so they (Spare Parts) started flying around to different Hoop It Up tournaments across the country spreading their story. I just fell in love with the cause.”
Ever since then, Silvestri has had a heart for organ donations, and little did she know that her first day on the job at Southwest Transplant Alliance, she would work with a man by the name of Mickey Mantle. Mantle, the New York Yankee center fielder for 18 years, and an all-star for 16 of those years, received a new liver June 8, 1995, at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas after struggling for decades with alcoholism.
“In 1995, Mickey’s transplant took the conversation about organ donation to a level it had never seen before,” Silvestri said.
Mantle passed away a few months later of cancer, but not before he opened up a lot of eyes to organ donation. He even created the Mickey Mantle Foundation to raise awareness about donating organs.
Southwest Transplant Alliance, which has been around since 1973, is a local independent non-profit agency. It is one of 59 such agencies across the country that deal with families who have just had a loved one pass away and talk the family through the process of organ donation. Silvestri says it’s important to know that even though someone you care about might not still be here, he or she can still make a tremendous impact in someone else’s life.
“There are hundreds of people in North Texas, probably thousands that have had transplants and are back to work,” Silvestri said. “Just in our area we have police officers, firemen, teachers, journalists, any career you can think of. There are people in that career that can still do what they do because someone was willing to donate their organs.”
On a personal level, Silvestri has had her eyes opened to a lot more than organ donations.
“It forces you to look at your life every day and be very grateful because death is so obvious, and so prevalent, and in your face when you work in organ donation,” Silvestri said. “But at the same time, it also helps you see that death can turn into life.”
Even though Silvestri knows that organ donation can be a touchy subject for many people who have just lost loved ones, she wants people to take a perspective from someone else’s shoes.
“Put yourselves in the place of someone in need,” Silvestri said. “Take a good look if you or someone you loved needed an organ transplant. And if the answer is yes, which I would think it would be, then they should probably consider becoming a donor.”