Today I went to a ceremony at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse, NY, to mark April as “Donate Life” month. Upstate University Hospital has a very active kidney transplant program, and today was set aside to thank the families of donors, honor the hospital’s transplant team and publicize the still very great need for organ donation.
Statistics follow, some of them grim. But first, some inspiration courtesy of the mother of a 21-year-old woman who died from injuries sustained in a car accident. The mom stood at a podium in front of several dozen people and a few cameras, and bravely told her story.
The evening of Labor Day 2007, after the mother and daughter had spent most of the day together, the daughter was struck by a car. She had no brain function, and the family made the decision to donate her organs. The daughter had been a dedicated blood donor, so it was a relatively easy decision, her mom said.
The family later got to meet the man who received the daughter’s liver. Coincidentally, they lived only six miles apart. They spent several hours together one Sunday, talking, crying and sharing photos.
One tidbit brought laughter among the tears. The daughter was a New York Yankees fan, while the recipient (a wise man) loved the rival Boston Red Sox. “He got a Yankee liver,” the mother said.
That “Yankee liver” gave the Sox fan 3 1/2 more years of life — long enough to walk one of his own daughters down the aisle, and long enough to establish a scholarship at the deceased woman’s high school in her name.
Some statistics: nationally, 122,000 people are on the waiting list for organ transplants. Each day, 78 people get a transplant — more than 28,000 per year. (One organ donor has the potential to save as many as eight lives.)
But according to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 18 people die each day waiting for a healthy organ. In New York state alone, there are 8,000 people awaiting a kidney transplant. All those numbers, it seems, are good reasons to become a donor.
A footnote: In 2008, I added my name to the donor registry in New York state. Somewhere in my files is a letter to my oldest son, notifying him of my pledge. My organs, eyes and tissue won’t be of any use to me, so I’d rather those parts improve the length and quality of others’ lives — even Yankees fans.