Brock Marvin, a 17-year-old senior at Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School, is alive today because someone donated his/her heart upon death. The heart was successfully transplanted in December, and Brock was back at school in February.
Organ donation is a grown-up decision, one made more complex by the fear of death and the difficulty of dealing with such an emotional topic. Yet this grown-up decision gave Brock a fighting chance at becoming a grown-up and living a long and healthy life.
People don't have to die in order to donate an organ. A heart, yes, but not a kidney. Such was the case in December, when Westport resident Ben Sudduth donated a kidney to Westport Central School senior Molly Rascoe. She had been on dialysis for more than a year. By January, she was back on the basketball court playing for the varsity girls team.
We urge you to sign up for organ donation. About 97 percent of organ donors sign up through the Department of Motor Vehicles by filling out the "anatomical gift" information on the back of their driver's licenses.
People can also place their names on the New York State Donate Life Registry online at www.nyhealth.gov. Anyone can donate organs as long as they are 18 years old.
The Essex County Board of Supervisors officially recognized April as National Donating Life Month during a recent meeting. Brock, Molly and Ben were all there. We're just following their lead and asking people to make the selfless gift of their vital organs when the time is right.
After the surgery, Brock's father said he thought about the family of the person who died and gave the heart to his son:
"You just hate to think about what they are going through, but you hope that they would look at Brock and see that their decision or the decision of their loved one is the reason why he is living today."
Due to strict hospital protocol, organ recipients don't always get to know the names of their donors or meet their families. It's up to the donor's side of the family to make the first move.
"We would love to meet them and just have the chance to thank them," Brock's father said in December.
A Warrensburg family - the Winslows - last week met the man who received the heart of their son, 24-year-old Ryan Winslow, who died in 2006 after a boating accident on Lake George. Their decision to donate Ryan's heart saved the life of Gary Antognioni, a Bennington, Vt. man who had been fighting for his life. We're sure his wife and three children appreciated the gift. The Antognionis recently moved to South Carolina, where the Winslows traveled for their spring break meeting.
Ryan's mom put the donation in perspective:
"It means so much to me that Ryan's heart is still beating."
Ryan's liver and kidneys were also donated to sick people in need.
Organ donation FAQs
Why are organ, eye and tissue donations needed?
There is a severe shortage of organs for life-saving transplants. In addition to those New Yorkers awaiting organ transplants, thousands more benefit from tissue donation such as skin for burn victims or eye donations for sight-restoring cornea transplants. Without these surgeries, they will die or remain disabled. Transplants give people a chance to resume full, productive lives.
Who can become a donor?
Anyone can decide to become a donor. A person's medical history or age does not automatically exclude him or her from being a donor. Do not rule yourself out. Medical professionals will determine your suitability for donation at the time of your death.
Is there any cost to my estate or family for donating my organs, eyes and tissues?
No. There are no costs to your estate or family for you to be a donor.