New York Daily News
Urging Hispanics to donate organs: Mom turns son’s tragedy into fight for gift of life
Oscar Veliz died in hit-run accident, but mother is glad he 'lives on in others' and starts foundation to encourage would-be donors
BY ERICA PEARSON
WHEN DOCTORS told Yolany Veliz her son was brain dead after a hit-and-run car accident, she wanted to take the 16-year-old off a ventilator and donate his organs.
She got unexpected grief from fellow immigrants in her Long Island neighborhood who believed myths about organ donation, like doctors selling body parts.
“So many people told me not to do it,” said Veliz, 38, who ignored the naysayers and let her son’s organs be harvested.
“But it really helps me to know that he lives on in others.”
Veliz, who is from Honduras and lives in Hempstead, is starting a foundation and website — www.oscarvelizfundation — to encourage other Latin American immigrants to consider organ donation.
Julia Rivera of the New York Organ Donor Network said Hispanic enrollment in the state registry of willing donors is low.
“There are still a lot of misconceptions and fears,” Rivera said. “We have a very high immigrant population, and unfortunately there’s some confusion there.”
Her group has worked to dispel the myths, educating potential donors that major religions support it and that doctors who declare a patient’s death have no stake in the transplant process.
Over the last decade, the number of Hispanic donors has risen. In 2011, 91 out of 264 donors in the metropolitan area were Hispanic. Hispanic families consented to donate 66% of the time, the highest rate of any group.
In Veliz’s case, six of Oscar’s organs went to patients on transplant waiting lists, including the 28-year-old son of a friend who needed a kidney.
“I think it was a miracle,” said Veliz, who has grown close to that recipient, Mike Cernam.
“It feels like she could consider me as one of her sons,” said Cernam, who often visits the pool hall Veliz owns in Hempstead.
Veliz does not know who got her son’s other kidney, lung, pancreas or liver but was touched to learn his heart went to a 17-year-old girl.
Police have still not caught the cowardly driver of the tan Toyota Camry that hit Oscar while he was on his bike on Clinton St. near Webb Ave. on Oct. 18.
Crime Stoppers and the family are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. The anonymous hotline is (800) 244-TIPS.
“Police are still working on this,” said family lawyer Mitchel Weiss, of Sakkas Cahn & Weiss LLP. “We’re hoping.”
New York Daily News
Liver transplant is gift of life for Queens baby
BY LISA L. COLANGELO
The best holiday present Samreen and Hussain Gadit have ever received did not come wrapped in glitzy ribbons and bows this year.
Their gift is the simple act of watching their infant son, Ariz, sleep in his own crib in their Hollis home.
Ariz, who turns three months old next week, is recovering after receiving a life-saving liver transplant at Mt. Sinai Hospital.
“It’s a miracle for us,” said Samreen Gadit, 31, as she held her youngest son. “He’s doing really well.”
Even the expert physicians who performed the surgery are amazed by little Ariz’s strength.
“Probably only one or two kids a year under a month of age get a liver transplant,” said Dr. Sandy Florman, director of the Recanati/Miller Transplantation Institute at Mt. Sinai Hospital, who performed the surgery with a team of doctors. “The stakes were so high.”
When Ariz was born on Oct. 3 to Samreen, a physician’s assistant, and Hussain, an engineer, the newborn seemed healthy.
“He looked fine, he looked great,” said Samreen Gadit, who gave birth at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.Life saving liver transplant for Queens baby is best holiday gift of all
Family hopes their story will spark organ donor drive
Her two older sons, six-year-old Ahmed and two-year-old Adam, were looking forward to meeting their little brother.
But a routine test showed Ariz had low blood sugar and a low blood platelet count.
“When I heard low platelet count so many things started going through my mind,” his mother recalled.
He took a test to rule out neonatal hemochromatosis - an extremely rare and often fatal liver disease.
The couple was crushed to find out their baby tested positive.
Florman said the disease is basically an “iron overload” problem and most children die from it before they are born.
Ariz did not respond to several treatments, leaving doctors no other option but to seek a liver transplant.
Performing delicate surgery on such a tiny patient was daunting enough. Doctors also needed to find a liver that matched.
Hussian Gadit hoped to be a donor for his son. But even the smallest piece of his liver would be too large for Ariz.
Florman and others were stunned when a donor liver, also from an infant, became available within days.
“He was on life support and had days to live,” said Florman, “This is one incredibly lucky kid.”
Helen Irving, president of the New York Organ Donor Network, said while an overwhelming number of New Yorkers support organ donation only 17% have registered through the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
“Right now, we are somewhat in a crisis for the need for organ donation,” Irving said.
The Gadits are hoping their story will urge people to think about signing up for organ donation. And they are thankful for the doctors and nurses who gave Ariz - who will be renamed Ali - lifesaving care.
“When you can help a baby have the rest of his life...this is the good stuff,” Florman said.
For more information about organ donation go to www.donatelifeny.org.
Astoria Times/Jackson Heights Times
Jamaica woman pushes for more organ donor applicants
BY EVELYN CHENG
Thrisha White with her daughter Isabell.
National Minority Organ Donor Awareness Day Aug. 1 highlighted the great need for minority organ donors, especially from areas like Queens, which has a 60.3 percent non-white population.
"[There] continues to be a misconception of the need in the minority community," said CEO and President of the New York Organ Donor Network Elaine Berg. "This is an area where the best medicine cannot help people unless there is an altruistic human being — someone who would decide that it would be a good thing to save lives."
Jamaica resident Thrisha White, 29, came from Guyana with her mother and sister to Queens when she was 12 due to kidney damage from a medication overdose. When she was 15 she received her first kidney transplant from her mother. But eight years later, her body rejected the kidney and she was put on dialysis. Most kidney transplants last 17 years.
White then spent two years handling immigration issues that affected her insurance before she was placed on the organ transplant waiting list.
"The medication after the transplant is very expensive," she said. After six years on dialysis, White was able to obtain a second kidney July 11 from a 4-year-old boy who had died prematurely. "It's much better for people to get a transplant than dialysis.
The mortality on dialysis is 10 to 20 percent a year," said White's surgeon, Michael Goldstein, director of kidney and pancreas transplantation at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan.
Despite having excellent doctors and hospitals, the New York Organ Donor Network reported her story during National Minority Organ Donor Awareness Day that only 16 percent of New Yorkers over 18 are registered organ donors, as opposed to 41 percent nationwide. As a result, the average New York City organ recipient must wait 49 months for a transplant, far longer than the rest of the nation for which the average waiting time is 29 months.
Of 111,757 people in the nation waiting for transplants, about 50 percent are minorities. In particular, black Americans have the greatest need for transplants, especially kidney transplants, accounting for about 34 percent of the waiting list. But fewer than 30 percent of donors are minorities, with only 13 percent black donors.
Berg said she hoped that more minorities, especially blacks, would register to donate their organs to reduce the disproportional representation.
"Don't screen yourself out. Everyone should consider themselves a potential organ donor," she said.
Registration can be completed when renewing a driver's license or online at the New York Organ Donor Network
Lap4Life Raises $12,000 for New York Organ Donor Network
The third annual Lap4Life Chadwick Lake Run/Walk was held today and once again was an overwhelming success. The New York Organ Donor Network is grateful to Maddalena Casabianca-Reade, organizer of the event. It raised funds for various causes incling $12,000 for our public education efforts. The Run/Walk, in memory of Maddalena's brother Angelo Casabianca, raises awareness about Desmoid tumors and organ transplants.
Lap4Life Run/Walk Photo: (L-R) Team members Gena Lee O'Brien, Tracy Shuta, G. Pinheiro, Gwen Borsenberger, Cathy Agnello, Madalena Casabianca-Reade (standing in front of Dr. Brian Reade); Gary Southard (Donor Network volunteer) and Stefan Segadlo (Donor Network public/professional education specialist).
On the Lap4Life Foundation website (www.lap4;ife.org), Maddalena wrote: "Ten years ago, this rare disease affected my brother. He was a 39 year old husband, father of three young children and local physician.
"Nine years of medical treatment and multiple surgeries with subsequent complications left him with few options. A final attempt to remove his large Desmoid Tumors required resection of his entire small intestine. He could no longer eat and was reliant on intravenous nutrition. Six months later, he underwent an intestinal transplant, a rare and risky procedure.
"Seven weeks after his transplant, he returned home to resume his life as a loving father and husband. Unfortunately, one week after being home, he succumbed to an illness that his weakened immune system could not ward off. Intestinal transplant currently offers the only hope of survival for patients with intestinal failure who are dependent on and often do not tolerate intravenous nutrition.
"While it is no longer considered experimental, intestinal transplantation continues to be very expensive and risky therapy with a need for life-long immunosuppression.
"Ongoing research has improved the outcomes significantly, to the point where patients like my brother can look forward to a long survival with a good quality of life.
"There is a desperate need for continued research both into the biology and treatment of Desmoid Tumors and into intestinal transplantation."
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Bronx Dad Celebrating First Father's Day Without Dialysis After Kidney Transplant
BY PATRICE O'SHAUGHNESSY
Jameak Lee has had a son for 12 years, but this Father's Day will be the first one that he feels like a full-time dad.
When his son, Justin, was born, Lee was getting sicker and sicker from kidney disease. Lee said he missed so much of his son's life, because requisite dialysis treatment every Monday, Wednesday and Friday after work kept him from attending Justin's Christmas plays and other school activities.
When Justin asked why his father's arm would pulsate really fast (his artery and vein were sewn together to facilitate dialysis), Lee told the boy he had a bionic arm.
"I never told him much, and my mother-in-law said, 'What if you go to the hospital someday and don't come back?' So I finally told him I was sick, and that I needed a transplant."
He got a new kidney four months ago through the Organ Donor Network, and now Lee, of Mount Hope, has "a new outlook on life, a second chance."
Lee, 37, a paraprofessional for the Board of Education who is on leave, spoke on Monday after he had just gotten a good report from Dr. Vaughn Whittaker, a transplant surgeon at St. Luke's Hospital who performed Lee's operation.
"There were so many challenges to getting him transplanted," said Whittaker, adding that a team of doctors, nurses and social workers were involved. "He learned to roll with it."
Lee had been undergoing dialysis for 10 years. He had been sick since 1995. His legs would swell up with fluid and his kidneys weren't filtering the toxins from his blood.
One time, Lee was down South visiting family, and got on a plane when Whittaker told him there was a kidney available, but it didn't work out. Another time, Lee was told there was a kidney, but he had an infection and the surgery wasn't possible at the time.Finally, last Valentine's Day, a "beautiful," "perfect," healthy kidney became available, the surgeon said.
"It was from a 27-year-old man, who had died a traumatic death, and his family was gracious enough to donate it," said Whittaker.
"Now Jameak is off dialysis and he's doing great, he looks great," said Whittaker."He wants to be strong for his kid. We think of our relationship with our transplant patients as a marriage and we never get divorced," Whittaker said. He will see Lee less and less, eventually only once a year.
"This is such an amazing story; they're all amazing stories and it's in our power to make these stories happen," said Elaine Berg, president of the New York Organ Donor Network.
Berg said the Empire State ranks 48th - 48th - out of the 50 states for number of living donors.So few people sign up in New York; I guess it's because New Yorkers are so busy, they have so much on their plate."
She urges everyone to at least sign the back of their driver's license, so that they can posthumously donate.
The Islip Bulletin
Bike tour a success
Four hundred and fifty people participated in the annual North Shore Bike Tour that was held on May 22. The 35-mile ride, which extended from Osprey Dominion Vineyard in Southold to Orient Point State Park and back, was headed by Islip Town resident John Acquaro, a heart transplant recipient, and raised more than $28,000 for the New York Organ Donor Network, triple the amount that was raised last year.
"More important than raising money was putting the idea of organ donation into people's heads," Acquaro said. For more information about the network, go to www.donatelifeny.org.
The New York Times
One Death Provides New Life for Many
BY DENISE O'GRADY
Photo: Béatrice de Géa for The New York Times
Mirtala Garcia laid a hand on Sebastiao Lourenco’s chest, then pressed her ear there for a moment.
“That’s my heart,” she said. “It’s still beating for me.”
Although she had just met Mr. Lourenco, she had known his heart for a long time. It had belonged to her husband, Julio, who died from a brain hemorrhage in March 2010, at the age of 38. Mrs. Garcia donated her husband’s organs, and the family’s loss led to a second chance for Mr. Lourenco, 57.
But he was not the only one. Seven or eight other people who urgently needed transplants also received organs from Mr. Garcia, an unusually large number. (The average from organ donors is about three.) Even more unusual, his family and a group of recipients met on Wednesday in a highly emotional gathering at the Manhattan headquarters of the New York Organ Donor Network, which coordinated the transplants.
The story of the Garcias and the people whose lives were saved by one man’s donated organs provides a close look at the charged world of transplants and organ donation, where people on the transplant list know they may die waiting, and the families of brain-dead patients are asked, at perhaps the most painful time in their lives, to look beyond their own grief and allow a loved one’s organs to be removed to help strangers.
There are nowhere near enough donor organs for all the people who need transplants. Nearly 111,000 are on waiting lists in the United States, but last year, only 28,663 transplants were performed, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees the transplant system nationwide. This year, 6,000 to 7,000 people are expected to die waiting.
Last week, Mrs. Garcia and her children, 5, 11 and 18, who all live in Stamford, Conn., met four of the recipients of her husband’s organs for the first time. A fifth recipient also attended, one of two people with renal failure, both members of the Garcias’ church, whom Mrs. Garcia chose to receive kidneys.
Mrs. Garcia addressed a room packed with recipients, families, doctors, nurses, her minister and his family and network employees. She spoke briefly through an interpreter. She said her husband had had a big heart and would be very proud “to give life after death.” No one would ever forget him, she said.
Elaine R. Berg, president of the donor network, said: “These meetings don’t happen that frequently. I’ve been here 11 years, and if it’s once a year that’s a lot. I’ve never met five recipients from one donor. It’s highly unusual.”
In many cases recipients or donor families, or both, choose to remain anonymous, Ms. Berg said. Recipients may send thank-you letters through the network, but they and donors do not often choose to meet.
“It’s pretty intimidating and pretty emotional,” Ms. Berg said. “Some people cannot bear it.”
But she said that meeting the recipients can bring solace to donor families.
Mr. Garcia was so young and strong that his corneas and six organs were healthy enough to transplant: his heart, one lung, his pancreas, both kidneys and his liver, which was divided to save two people, an adult and a child.
In photographs, Julio Garcia was handsome, with a mischievous smile. His wife said he loved to joke and laugh. But he was also deeply religious, and as a pastor at their evangelical church in Stamford he did a lot of preaching and marriage counseling. He earned his living as a carpenter. Both he and his wife, originally from Guatemala, became naturalized citizens.
For many years, he had suffered periodically from severe headaches, but he had been told they were migraines. The headaches were unusually bad during the week or so before March 17, a Wednesday. That day, his head hurting, he told his children he loved them and went to work.
He called his wife that afternoon, saying the pain was terrible and he was going numb all over. She wanted to call an ambulance, but he asked her to pick him up instead. She drove him to a hospital in Stamford. A major hemorrhage and swelling were putting pressure on his brain. Doctors tried to relieve the pressure, and then transferred Mr. Garcia to NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital in Manhattan.
By the time he arrived there on Wednesday night, he was in a deep coma, needed a ventilator to breathe and had extremely low blood pressure — all signs of a large hemorrhage affecting the brain stem, according to Dr. Axel Rosengart, the director of neurocritical care. Doctors stabilized him and tried again to reduce the pressure on his brain, but scans showed extensive, irreversible damage, Dr. Rosengart said.
Dr. Rosengart said he was not certain but suspected that the bleeding was caused by an arteriovenous malformation, a blood vessel abnormality that Mr. Garcia may have had from birth.
By Thursday, Dr. Rosengart said, he began to warn the family that Mr. Garcia was heading toward brain death. Later that day, the diagnosis was made twice, by two different physicians, in accord with state law. A patient with brain death is legally dead. At that point, there were two priorities, Dr. Rosengart said: “the family and their emotional survival, and preserving the organs.”
Brain-dead patients can become medically unstable, and intensive treatment is often needed to prevent their organs from failing.
Dr. Rosengart and a social worker from the New York Organ Donor Network asked Mrs. Garcia about organ donation.
At first, Mrs. Garcia recalled, she could not accept the diagnosis of brain death. Still hoping a miracle would save her husband, she asked them to wait.
The next day, Friday, it became clear to her that her husband would not recover. Dr. Rosengart and the social worker, Michelle Aguiar, asked her to think about what Mr. Garcia would have wanted.
“More than half the time, if you offer somebody the chance to save a life when their head is clear, you know they’re going to say yes,” Ms. Aguiar said. “The timing is crucial.”
She said that 70 percent of the families she asked gave consent, which is one of the highest rates in the New York network.
Mrs. Garcia said she thought about how important it had been to her husband to help other people. She recalled a movie they had watched, “Seven Pounds,” about a man who donates organs. Mr. Garcia had said that it would be a great thing to save lives, and that if anyone ever got his heart, he hoped she would meet that person. She recalled another movie in which someone had wound up in a coma, after which Mr. Garcia said he would not want his family to see him linger that way.
She talked to relatives and her minister. Finally, Mrs. Garcia thought of her friend Milvia Palma, who needed a kidney transplant. She heard Ms. Palma’s voice in her mind, saying, “I’m sick.” And in that moment, the decision was made. Mr. Garcia had said that God would provide for Ms. Palma. Who could have known that it would be through his own death?
On Friday night, Mrs. Garcia signed the consent forms. The donor network went into action, locating patients at the top of transplant lists, looking for matches in blood type, body size and other factors.
Patients at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia hospital were eligible for the heart, liver and lung; a 1-year-old at Mount Sinai would also receive part of the liver, and Ms. Palma and Edward Santos, another friend and church member, would get the kidneys. The pancreas would go to a patient in Minnesota, who has chosen to remain anonymous.
The first operations were scheduled for Sunday. Thomas Ginz, 67, from Guilford, Conn., got the call at 6:30 in the morning.
“You get a slip from the hospital that you can give to the police so you can actually speed to get there if you have to, because time is of the essence,” Mr. Ginz said. (He did not have to use it.)
Mr. Ginz, who has a disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which scars the lungs, needed oxygen all the time and was deteriorating so rapidly that even his doctor had begun to worry that a transplant might not come in time.
Now, Mr. Ginz wondered if the operation would really happen. A month earlier, lungs had become available and he was called in as a backup candidate and fully prepped for surgery. As it turned out, another patient was a better fit. Many transplant candidates go through these nerve-racking dry runs. But this time, his surgeon said, “Tom, you’re up,” and whisked him off to the operating room.
Jo Ann Laskaris, 69, from Manhattan, had also wondered if she would survive long enough to receive a transplant. She had liver cancer, caused by hepatitis C, which she had contracted from a blood transfusion when she was in her 20s. Doctors were struggling to keep the disease from spreading beyond her liver. She received the right lobe, the larger segment of Mr. Garcia’s liver.
The smaller left lobe went to Braylen Benitez, a toddler from the Bronx with a congenital liver disease, whose body had just rejected a transplant.
Mr. Lourenco, 57, who lives in Jackson Heights, Queens, had severe heart failure and was in the hospital when word of the transplant came. For two years he had needed an implanted pump to help his weakened heart, and he, like the others, saw his time running out.
Mr. Santos, 43, had kidney failure caused by diabetes, which had already damaged his sight and led to the amputation of his lower leg. Dialysis treatments left him feeling ill and weak, and as one after another patient at the clinic died, he wondered if he would share their fate.
After the operations, Ms. Laskaris and Mr. Ginz’s wife wrote Mrs. Garcia to thank her, and said they hoped to meet her some day.
Last week, the recipients and their families hugged and thanked her and her children. Several said they felt a powerful bond to her and her family. Mr. Lourenco, an artist, gave her one of his paintings. Ms. Laskaris asked if she and her family might attend Mrs. Garcia’s church.
For most, it had not been an easy year. Several had suffered from infections and frightening episodes of rejection, and all were dealing with complicated regimens of anti-rejection pills and other medicines. But all were grateful to be alive and were keenly aware that their survival had depended on someone else’s death, and the kindness of his family.
Mrs. Garcia and her children have lived with loss and sadness. And without her husband’s earnings, Mrs. Garcia, who cleans houses, struggles to pay her rent and feed the family. But she said she finds comfort, and sometimes even joy, in thinking that her husband lives on through other people, and that he would have wanted it that way.
For information on becoming an organ donor: Donate Life America, donatelife.net; 701 East Byrd Street, 16th Floor, Richmond, VA 23219; (804) 377-3580.
Dabrali Jimenez contributed reporting.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Correction - May 16, 2011
An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of the patient who received Julio Garcia's heart. He is Sebastiao Lourenco, not Sebastiano Laurenco.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction - Correction: May 18, 2011
An article on Tuesday about organ donations by Julio Garcia, a resident of Stamford, Conn., who died of a brain hemorrhage in 2010, omitted a first reference to the Manhattan hospital where patients who received Mr. Garcia’s heart, liver and lung were being treated. It is New York-Presbyterian/Columbia hospital. The article also misstated the telephone number for Donate Life America, a group that provides information about organ donation. The correct number is (804) 377-3580.
New York Daily News
TALL CHALLENGE - Ex-Jets QB Esiason and 7-Foot '30 Rock' Star Chapman Pushing New Yorkers to Be Organ Donors
BY JOANNA MOLLOY
There aren't too many people who can make 6-foot-5 Boomer Esiason feel short, but at an even 7 feet, Grizz Chapman of "30 Rock" is one of them.
And now, the two big guys are coming together to tackle a big problem: the appallingly low rate of organ donation in New York.
Grizz got a kidney transplant , and Boomer's son Gunnar, a college sophomore with cystic fibrosis, may need a lung transplant.
Last year, only 242 people who died in the New York metro area donated their organs. There are 7,833 people on the waiting list - and some will die waiting.
I'm sure average New Yorkers would gladly donate their organs after death to save eight lives.
After all, you can't take your heart, two lungs, liver, two kidneys, intestines or pancreas with you.
Yet only 16% of eligible New Yorkers have signed up to New York State's Donate Life Registry - a far cry from the national average of 40%.
The reason? New York is still in the Dark Ages when it comes to organ donations.
Nine months after former Gov. David Paterson signed an online e-registry into law, you still have to visit a DMV office to register or print out a form and snail-mail it.
Some people may think they're too old, or that poor health may have disqualified them. Others mistakenly believe it's against their religion.
Elaine Berg, CEO of the New York Organ Donor Network, says: "We encourage all people to never rule themselves out as potential donors. And all major religions support the principles of organ donation."
Grizz has a different theory.
"I think people don't donate because of lack of knowledge," he says. "The world is always talking about things going wrong, when they should be talking about things going right, like what Ryan Perkins did for me."
Perkins, a 23-year-old from Arizona, decided to become a living donor and donate one of his kidneys to Grizz when he heard of his plight.
The East New York native was on dialysis at 36, after years of suffering from hypertension.
"Ryan is family now," Grizz says. "I'm grateful for Ryan every day."
It motivated him to start TeamGrizz, which sponsors walks to raise money to help with the side costs of transplants.
Esiason, an NFL star and WFAN host who has raised $100 million to find a cure for cystic fibrosis, thinks more people would be motivated to sign up if they knew about Dennis Mallooseril, a 25-year-old killed in a New Jersey church trying to protect a woman from a gunman.
"His parents were heartbroken, but they decided to donate his lungs to John Muscarella," a 21-year-old whose lungs failed due to cystic fibrosis.
When Mallooseril's mother spoke at a Boomer Esiason Foundation benefit about the comfort the donation had given her, "There wasn't a dry eye in the house," Boomer says.
New Yorkers will be able to hear many more such stories this month at DMV offices from transplant recipients and donor families, who also will urge people to join the registry.
And Grizz and Boomer have started a friendly competition to see who can sign up more people.
"If between us, we get even just two people to sign up, then everybody wins," Grizz says.
No Need to Wait to Be an Organ Donor
The stories of those whose lives were changed and in many cases saved by organ transplants are dramatic and compelling. Anybody who hears one is likely to conclude that becoming an organ donor is the right thing to do. And it's very easy. But it does not happen often enough.
That's why people who have received organ donations will be hanging around the offices of the state Department of Motor Vehicles this month to spread the word and try to increase the chances that when somebody else needs such help, it will be available.
It is hard to believe that something so beneficial and noncontroversial as organ donation has to struggle so hard for acceptance. In New York, only 13 percent of those over 18 are listed in the organ donor registry, something that a proposed new law might help. If passed, it would require that people applying for or renewing driver's licenses would be asked if they wanted to become a donor. Now, the opportunity is there, but people are not asked to make a decision.
Estimates are that making that small change could add millions to the donor rolls, a significant increase considering that thousands of New Yorkers are now on the lists waiting for organs to become available. And because each donor can save up to eight lives — with the number of recipients rising to about 50 when cornea and tissue transplants are included — the chance for dramatic improvements is staggering.
Rather than wait for a new law or a license renewal, however, those who have always thought that becoming an organ donor would be a good idea can act right away. Forms and lots of questions and answers are available at the website of the New York Organ Donor Network.