Someone saved his life, he returned the favor

Published: March 7, 2007 | 5716th good news item since 2003

On April 3, 2003, David Osborn received liver and kidney transplants, surgery that saved his life.

On April 3, 2007, the 55-year-old Milford resident and retired guidance counselor will receive the Good Samaritan award from the Greater Nashua and Souhegan Valley American Red Cross for saving a boy’s life last year.

Osborn, who spent about 30 years working as a school guidance counselor, including more than a decade at Milford High School, three years at a junior high school in Lowell, Mass., and about 16 years at Mountain View Middle School in Goffstown, believes the coincidence is noteworthy.

“I’m going to challenge everybody to become an organ donor,” he said.Osborn will be honored for saving the life of a 7-year-old boy last May. The boy, a 10-year-old girl and their parents were riding in a car that rolled over, hit several trees, and exploded on Interstate 93.

The girl was also rescued, and survived. The boy’s mother and the girl’s father, who were not wearing seat belts, died.

“It was Memorial Day weekend and I was on cruise control at 75 miles per hour, tying up traffic that was going over 100,” Osborn recalled. “We were in the middle lane and saw that a car had flipped on its side.”

Osborn, who was traveling with his daughter, Cara, a college student, said he pulled over, jumped out of his Honda convertible, ran to the boy, and lifted him out of the car moments before the vehicle exploded. Flames singed the hair on the back of his head and his shirt, and he was covered with blood.

He said several people had stopped and were standing around, looking for a way to help out.

“I could smell alcohol on their breath,” Osborn said, recalling how he worried about a second explosion.

Osborn said he relied on emergency training he received as a school guidance counselor. He reacted quickly, assessing the situation before scooping up the child from the burning car and carrying him to safety.

“I look at it like this, ‘If a human being can help another human being, that’s the max,’ ’’ Osborn said. “Give them a smile. Live every day to the max. You never know.”

That philosophy has guided Osborn’s life.

The Lowell, Mass., native and father of two, earned an associate’s degree from Middlesex Community college in 1972, a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1974 and a master’s degree in education from Springfield College in 1974.

In the 1970s, he created a drop-in center at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Bedford, Mass., for Vietnam veterans, part of a program of Middlesex Community College, and worked at a drop-in center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He also taught the psychology of drug abuse at Springfield Community College.

While helping others deal with chemical addictions, Osborn fought his own battles in the same war: four years ago, doctors told him his liver had stopped working, the result of years of alcohol abuse, and he would die if he didn’t receive a new one; they also said he would need a kidney transplant.

Osborn, a self-described “old hippie who went into the establishment” but maintained his “hippie philosophy,” said the transplant surgery was a turning point in his life.

He was in a medically induced coma for 11 days and received the Roman Catholic Last Rites.

“I felt my body floating,” he said. “I saw colors, and I was very happy. I was in front of God and it was like smoking a joint and having a glass of wine. I was very happy.”

Osborn said his joy was interrupted by a voice telling him, “David, you’ve got to go back.”

Following the transplant surgery, Osborn said he felt depressed, not the typical reaction. Eventually, however, he came to believe his life’s purpose had been revealed during his near-death experience.

“I felt, ‘I’m here for some reason.’ Because I was so close to death,” he said.

When he receives the American Red Cross Good Samaritan award next month during a breakfast at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua, Osborn plans to talk about organ donation. He wants to “challenge” members of the audience to become organ donors.

He makes a similar pitch every day, demonstrating his commitment by wearing a green, plastic bracelet distributed by the American Liver Foundation that is engraved with the words, “Donate Life.”

Osborn, a cheerful, outgoing man with graying curly hair, is the second organ transplant recipient in as many weeks to be featured in The Telegraph. Last week, the newspaper reported on a Hudson man who received a kidney transplant from his sister, also a Hudson resident.

“I just want to be a good human being,” he said, adding that he volunteers at the Lahey Clinic, visiting transplant patients before their surgeries.

Osborn said not a day passes that he doesn’t feel grateful to be alive and certain his purpose in life is to “pay it forward.”

Daily, he drives to the top of Christian Hill, a spot overlooking an apple orchard, not far from the Amherst town center. He parks his black 2002 Honda S2000, puts on a Grateful Dead CD, and meditates.

“What a long, strange trip it’s been,” he says to himself, quoting from the late, lead guitarist of his favorite band.

Published in Life
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