by: Emma Springer
Tony Barrett, a UCI alumnus from the class of ‘85, posted a photo of a letter on his Twitter, Monday April 1, stating that he intends to donate his body to the UCI School of Medicine after being diagnosed with a fatal disease.
Barrett was diagnosed with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in March 2018 at 55 years old, a disease more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease that kills neurons controlling voluntary movement. The disease is incurable.
The letter is a short story of how he decided to donate his body and includes the joys that he had in life with a humorous spin that elicited sympathetic responses from students when the post reached the UCI reddit page.
After living what he considered a life filled with “wonderful friends” and “two crazy mutts that [he] loved very much,” Barrett’s body will be used in the ongoing research of ALS, however he hopes readers understand his message of life as much as his contribution to the sciences.
“I’ve always been a big proponent of having fun, so I figured that should spread into my death, too. What’s the point of living a sad, boring life?” said Barrett.
Barrett’s letter found humor in what most people would grimace at.
He says students should, “giggle at my weird architecture, ooh and ahh at the intricacies of my innards, and generally have fun as you learn.”
With 15.2 thousand followers on Twitter, Barrett has built a platform to speak about his disease and has chosen to be frank with his decisions regarding ALS. Working as a veterinary technician, he is very comfortable with the subject of death because of his personal exposure to it.
“Anytime you choose to be as open as I have about this kind of journey you will have people that disagree, some very strongly, with your methods and timing. I am, however, clear headed and single minded about my decisions. They are the right ones for me, and I can’t pretend to speak for anyone else,” explained Barrett.
Beyond advancements in the medical field, Barrett’s overarching message has important implications that he wants people beyond the medical field to think about.
“Be kind to each other. There are a multitude of forces that would divide us, and it’s up to each person to make the decision to choose love and inclusion over hate and division. It’s not hard; smile at a stranger, hold the door open for the next person, let someone merge in front of you in traffic. Little things matter and you can change someone’s entire day through a simple gesture,” Barrett concluded.