Heart transplant

Former Husker Assistant Barney Cotton Tells Story of His Life-Saving Heart Transplant

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Barney Cotton, a former Husker football player and assistant coach, needed a life-saving heart transplant in 2019.

No one expects to be in a hospital bed needing an organ, but right now there are approximately 106,000 people in the United States doing just that. In Nebraska, about 360 people are waiting for an organ.

Cotton said it took him a few tries to finally receive a heart.

“Getting gear is like having your face on the game, being a former manager and all, and all of a sudden they cancel the game,” he said.

Doctors say if more people were donors, patients might not have to wait so long.

And they fear that the need for organ donors will grow in the future.

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

Cotton has since established a bond with his donor’s family and he plans to meet them in person so they can feel their son’s heart beating fast.

“I thank them, and as they got to know me over the phone or whatever, they thank me,” Cotton said. “I say, ‘No, you’re not thanking me; Thank you.’ But they are grateful to have had the chance to know the man who lives with the gift of life their family has given me.

Cotton is now a big supporter of Live On Nebraska. He believes his purpose in life is to encourage others to sign up to be donors.

Cotton said her mother chose to be a donor and was able to help burn victims, which was important to her.

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

This year, the 5K Rally for Life, honoring organ donors and their families, is back in person. Everyone is invited to learn more and to honor and remember organ donors who have saved lives.

Channel 8’s Arianna Martinez will host the September 4 event at Werner Park in Papillion.

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

Cotton knows that without the new heart, her future would look very different.

“I mean, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “Say it this way.”