BY ROCKLAND COUNTY EXECUTIVE ED DAY
I shared my lunchtime on Monday with two extraordinary young women. Lauren Shields of Stony Point is 14. A heart transplant saved her life five years ago. Malkie Brandler of Spring Valley is 21. She is hoping to receive the gift of a new heart later this spring.
As we talked and joked in the bright midday sun, I listened to their carefree laughter and watched their joyful faces smile back at me. In an instant, that huge pile of work sitting on my desk seemed insignificant. Lauren and Malkie will carry their smiles into the future thanks to the kindness of others. Yet, while most New Yorkers support the concept of organ donation to save lives, millions have not taken the steps to make it official.
The need for donors has never been greater. In New York State, nearly 11,000 people are awaiting a life-saving organ, while only 22% of eligible residents (age 18 and older) are enrolled on the state’s Donate Life Registry. This the lack of registered donors is contributing to a chilling statistic: every 15 hours, a New Yorker dies waiting for an organ. Here in Rockland County, we’re taking giant steps to change this.
Joining with my colleagues in county government, we announced a renewed push this week in Rockland’s ongoing effort to increase enrollment in the New York State Donate Life Registry. Through a partnership with the nonprofit New York Organ Donor Network, Rockland County will seek to educate its workforce on the impact of organ, eye, and tissue donation. Employees will then reach out to other local residents and encourage enrollment on the Donate Life Registry.
District Attorney Thomas Zugibe and County Clerk Paul Piperato joined forces with NYODN in 2010 to help raise awareness of the statewide need for organ donation. This unprecedented collaboration led to a two-fold increase in the number of registered donors in Rockland County. In the days and weeks ahead, we hope to boost this figure even further.
Becoming an organ donor is an act of true selflessness. How often does a person make a decision to someday save the lives of up to eight others? I know our employees will engage family and friends by detailing the need for and benefits of organ donation.
Malkie is one of nearly 200 Rockland residents in need of a critical organ, eye or tissue donation. At the time of this writing, she is receiving inpatient treatment at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx while waiting anxiously – and, hopefully – for a donor heart. She plans to be out of the hospital to attend her cousin’s wedding this summer.
As for Lauren, she has become the public face of organ donation in New York by successfully advocating for “Lauren’s Law.” The measure makes it mandatory to answer the organ donor question on the Department of Motor Vehicle form or website when applying or renewing a driver’s license. Lauren and her family continue to work tirelessly to promote the benefits of giving the gift of life. We cannot thank her enough.
With this reenergized effort, Rockland County is sending a clear message: we are committed to increasing the number of enrolled organ donors. Our people, working in cooperation with NYODN, will work to educate those who may be reluctant to donate. By shining the light on the power of organ donation, we will help to increase the list of potential life-savers in our communities by thousands. Let’s do it for Malkie.
Learn more at donatelifeny.org.