When Paul Monno was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease at 35, doctors told him he wasn’t going to make it to 60. But seven months after transplant surgery, Monno, now 59, is back to work and feels great, he said.
His kidney donor was his wife, Heloisa.
At 57, Paul joined the waiting list for a new kidney, which can be as long as eight years. He was against family members donating to him at first, but when he entered stage 5, Heloisa got tested without his knowledge — and she was a match.
The Wantagh couple made the transplant on Sept. 10 last year.
“My wife has been by my side for 40 years,” Paul said. “Now she’s in my side. We’re definitely a perfect match.”
The couple told their story at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset on Friday as part of the hospital’s annual Organ Donor Day, an event to honor donors and raise awareness about organ and tissue donation on Long Island.
Nationally, there are over 110,000 patients on the waiting list for an organ, and in New York, the waiting list is approaching 12,000 people, according to Alessandro Bellucci, the hospital's executive director.
“Nationally, the number of patients on the list is trending down,” Bellucci said. “In New York, it’s trending up. We’re not doing a great job.”
Only 35 percent of New Yorkers are registered to be organ donors, and the state has the lowest organ donation numbers in the country, according to State Sen. Anna Kaplan, who spoke at the event.
“I know in my heart we can do better,” she said.
Firefighter Pete Prudente of Glen Cove, who donated his kidney on March 25 this year — his birthday— was honored along with the Monnos. His healthy kidney went to a complete stranger — a 60-year-old woman desperately in need of a new organ.
“To me, it wasn’t a big deal,” Prudente said. “I would do it again, and I wish I had five of them.”
April is National Donate Life Month, meant to encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and to celebrate those who have saved lives through donation. A single organ donor may save up to eight people, and one tissue donor may enhance the lives of up to 50 people.
“Talk to your families about organ donation, as hard as it may be,” said Helen Irving, president and CEO of LiveOnNY, a nonprofit organization helping New Yorkers affected by organ and tissue donation. “Don’t let anyone say, ‘Oh, it’ll never happen to me.’ Have the conversation.”