Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) took to the Assembly floor to introduce a resolution proclaiming April 2013 as Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Month, the resolution passed unanimously, in continuation of the call to action begun in 1992 by Assemblyman Jim Conte. Palmesano was also joined by a number of organ and tissue transplant recipients and advocates, including Lauren Shields, for which ‘Lauren’s Law’ was named. Last year, Lauren’s Law updated the driver license and I.D. card application with the DMV to make it easier for applicants to register as organ donors.
“I feel a bit out of place being the person to take up this resolution in the Assembly,” said Palmesano. “Assemblyman Conte brought a passion to this very important issue that I can only hope to adequately represent. Of the over 113,000 people awaiting organ transplants nationwide, more than 10,000 are in New York State, and I believe we must do everything possible to raise awareness about how important this issue is. Just one person donating at the time of their death can help as many as 50 others.”
Assemblyman Conte, who passed away just six months ago, received two kidney transplants in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which preserved his quality of life for several years. Lauren Shields (pictured above), who recently celebrated her thirteenth birthday this month, was the recipient of a life-saving heart transplant at the age of nine. Lauren, along with her family and others, advocated tirelessly for Lauren’s Law, which passed last year.
Though not something Palmesano frequently likes to mention, he offered his own transplant story to help emphasize how important organ donation is and what it can mean for a person and their family. In 2000, his sister was the recipient of a kidney transplant from a gracious unknown donor, and in 2006, Palmesano himself donated a kidney to his sister. Palmesano referred to the experience as one of the greatest privileges of his life and showed him firsthand how organ donation can improve a person and his or her family’s quality of life.
Of the 19 million residents of New York State, only 3.5 million are registered in the donate life registry, that is not quite 19 percent of the state’s population. The national average stands at 43 percent. New York’s donor registration is surprisingly low, considering that over 11 percent of those awaiting transplants reside in the state.
Lauren Shields and her mother, Jeanne, joined Palmesano and several other transplant recipients and advocates for the 2013 Resolution. Those in attendance included Jennifer Lentini, who at age 13 received her own life-saving heart transplant; Marilyn Foster, a liver transplant recipient; Pamela Lubell, CEO of Do Not Resuscitate and a living donor; Stefan Segadlo, of the New York Organ Donor Network; and Erin McGrath, one of the leading lobbyists who fought for the passage of Lauren’s Law.
“Organ donation is probably one of those things most people don’t think about too much until someone they love is in need of a transplant,” said Palmesano. “I hope that Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Month will help people realize how powerful and important being a donor is and decide to register. And thank you to everyone who already is a donor.”
If you are not an organ donor and would like to register or you are a donor, but are interested in learning more about the power of organ donation, please visit the Donate Life or Alliance for Donation Web site.
For video of Assemblyman Palmesano presenting the resolution, like “Assemblyman Phil Palmesano” on Facebook or go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=CWDAX81RzIo.