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Organ donors give the gift of life

I would like to thank Upstate New York Transplant Services, WJJL-AM -- The Sal Paonessa Show, WKBW-TV Channel 7, the Knights of Columbus and H.J. Kydd's Restaurant for their help in sponsoring the recent Community Information night held here in Niagara Falls for the purpose of bringing public awareness to the growing need of organ, eye and tissue donation in our community.

Early in my career as Niagara County coroner, I adopted the philosophy of "making the tragedy of death serve the living." On a day-to-day basis and over the past 29 years, I have been involved in the daily miracle of life-saving donation, as well as witnessing lives lost due to the lack of donation. The lack of donation, in almost all cases, is not due to intentional denial of donation, but rather never thinking, verbally expressing your intentions, or taking the time to fill out donor consent.

The process is very simply and, in most cases, as close to you as your wallet. In less than one minute, you can sign your consent on the back of your New York State driver's license. You may also list any exceptions. Once you have completed this, there is a place for two witnesses to sign for your consent.

As a result of one donor, a 32-year-old married mother of two from our area received the donor's left kidney. This woman had been on a waiting list for 671 days. A 59-year-old retired father received the donor's right kidney. He had been on a waiting list for 873 days. Both of these recipients can now look forward to a better and healthier lifestyle and no longer have to rely on dialysis. A 53-year-old married father of four was able to receive the donor's liver. He is still able to work and his transplant team tells us he is doing well.

As a result of another family's generosity, two individuals have received the gift of sight. Both the donor's corneas were used, and now two recipients can look forward to new vision. The remaining eye tissue was sent for research to study the causes and possible cures of eye disease. The outcome of this research could benefit many individuals in the future.

The donor's heart valves will be used to help young people with heart valve defects. As the recipients grow, they will not need repeated surgeries or blood thinners as they would with synthetic valves.

We also received the donor's bone tissue and skin for transplant. Donated bone tissue can be used for up to five years after it is recovered, and as many as 40 people may be helped by one donor. Potential recipients of donated bone include children suffering from congenital deformities, patients with bone cancer and victims of spinal injuries. These recipients will experience freedom from pain, greater mobility and the opportunity to lead more active lives.
Countless people like you and I could eventually be helped.

You and I have a choice. We were given the gift of life when we were born. We have the choice of giving it back, or we can choose not to. As for me, I chose the gift of life; I hope you will consider the same.

James M. Joyce,

Niagara Falls

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