BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
Lauren Shields’ inspiring story enters a new chapter as the 18-year-old Stony Point resident who received a heart transplant at age 9 will study at Providence College in Rhode Island this fall.
Shields, who graduated from Albertus Magnus High School last week, said she plans to major in biology at Providence, following a pre-med study track. She the told the Rockland County Times she hopes to one day be a cardiologist.
“I can’t see being anything else but a cardiologist…I can’t wait for the day I can sit with patients and really empathize with them because I was in the same situation,” she said.
Having faced the worst at an early age and being saved by the gift of a heart from a stranger, Shields is filled with a sense of mission to increase organ donation so others may also be saved. She feels she honors her donor by doing this, as well.
As a young girl, Shields led a movement to change how New York handled its organ donation checkbox on drivers licenses, culminating in 2012 with “Lauren’s Law,” which was made permanent in 2017. “Lauren’s Law” requires drivers in New York to answer whether or not they would like to be an organ donor upon death. Previously, New Yorkers could simply skip over the question.
When she started the campaign for what eventually became “Lauren’s Law,” Shields did not know what to expect. She said, “I definitely was surprised with how successful the movement was. I never thought there would be a law, let alone one named after me.”
She has continued to be involved in community service over the course of her life, earning scholarships from Transplant Support Organization and Isabell Christenson Memorial due to her advocacy for the donation cause. Shields says she remains forever aware of how pressing the situation is for those waiting for an organ donor.
At this time, approximately 10,000 New Yorkers are on an organ waiting list.
“New York ranks so low in organ donation. I will do anything I can to help. I had to wait a long time and it was scary,” she said.
Shields thanked the people of Rockland County for supporting her through the years. “It’s amazing how the community can rally around people they don’t even know,” she said.
LiveOnNY, formerly the New York Organ Donor Network, is a nonprofit organization Shields has worked closely with the past decade. If you are interested in registering to be an organ donor visit LiveOnNY.org.