By Thomas E. Jasinski Jr.
As a lifelong resident of New York State, I know most New Yorkers hate being last at anything. I don’t know if there is a word for worse than last, but if there is, it would have to apply to New York State and its current national ranking for registered organ donors per capita.
New York State is worse than last because it also falls below Guam and Puerto Rico.
Nearly 11,000 residents statewide are waiting for lifesaving organs. Sadly, approximately 500 of them will die because the lifesaving organs they need will not arrive in time. It does not have to be this way. I know more New Yorkers would step up if they were aware of this dire need.
The fix, unlike many of the other issues that face our state, can be accomplished relatively quickly and with modest expense. Other states have made significant increases in their registries through a public awareness campaign that inspires residents to register.
The average state registration rate is around 47 percent, with most successful states reaching nearly a 90 percent registration rate. New York’s registration rate is a dismal 26 percent.
Nationally the need has grown from approximately 113,000 in 2010 to nearly 124,000 in 2015. Twenty-two people die each day waiting for organs that just don’t become available. Annually, that is twice the number of people who died in the World Trade Center attacks. Why don’t more New Yorkers know this?
Increased registration does save lives. In 2014 the Texas/Oklahoma region increased its organ donor registration by 19 percent, which led to a 10 percent increase in transplants. New York State can do the same – and more.
I am a lucky man. I am a double organ transplant recipient, having received a kidney from a living donor and a pancreas from a deceased donor. Without these gifts, I likely would have been one of the 22 people who die each day waiting for transplant.
New Yorkers have always found a way to help those in need, to meet the challenges placed before them. This is a cause worth fighting for; people are dying every day because too few people are aware of this urgent need.
One donor can provide up to eight people with lifesaving organs and greatly impact at least 50 others through tissue donation.
April is National Donate Life Month. Please register (RegisterMe.org/one8fifty) to become an organ donor and/or consider becoming a living donor. The need is real. People are dying. Organ donation saves lives.
Thomas E. Jasinski Jr. is founder and executive director of ONE8FIFTY, a nonprofit whose goal is to increase the organ donor registry in New York State.