Two heart patients — one who has recently received a transplant and another who needs one — issued appeals to the public Wednesday to register as organ donors and to offer patients on waiting lists the gift of life.
Their calls for donor registration came during a morning news briefing at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, part of the Northwell Health system, to highlight Organ Donor Enrollment Day.
The two patients were joined by doctors, a state legislator and a donor registration expert who all underscored the paucity of organ donations statewide.
New York ranks at the bottom among U.S. states when it comes to organ-donor registration, the experts said, despite a record set last year in New York when 4,000 people signed registration paperwork on Organ Donor Enrollment Day.
“I am here to tell you that heart transplantation does work,” said Linda Sainvil, 49, a Queens Village resident who received a new heart in August after heart disease irreversibly damaged her own organ. She marveled Wednesday at being able to feel her pulse again.
Rene Nardin, 58, who has end-stage heart disease, is awaiting a transplant. For now, the Hicksville man relies on a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD — an implanted mechanical pump. The device helps his heart’s left ventricle — the organ’s key pumping chamber — move blood throughout his body.
The device, which is powered by an external battery, can sustain a patient for many years. Nardin was implanted with the LVAD in 2016.
“The gift of life is the most precious gift you can give a person,” said Nardin who referred to himself as “the voice” of all patients in need of a transplant.
His wife Rhonda signed a donor registration card during the news conference as a symbol of her commitment to organ donation.
Dr. David Majure, medical director of Northwell Health’s Mechanical Circulatory Support Program, said implants, which include a host of devices along with the LVAD, can serve as a bridge to transplant — an aid that keeps people alive while they await a new heart.
“I have people who have been on these machines for up to eight years,” Majure said.
Overall, statistics facing patients in New York who need organs of all kinds are grim.
More than 10,000 people are on waiting lists, but demand inevitably outstrips supply. An estimated 8,000 people are awaiting kidneys; more than 1,300 need livers, and more than 330, including Nardin, need a new heart.
The vast majority of New Yorkers say they support organ donation, but only 30 percent of state residents 18 or older are registered, said Natalie Benavides, vice president of external affairs with LiveOnNY, an organ procurement organization in Manhattan. The nonprofit works with transplantat teams in the greater metropolitan area.
During Wednesday’s news conference, Northwell also highlighted its new heart transplant program, which was approved by the State Health Department in June. It is the first heart transplant program on Long Island.
Doctors cited statistics Wednesday that show Long Islanders have comprised 40 percent of transplant patients whose operations were performed in New York City.
Now patients in Nassau and Suffolk can stay closer to home, Northwell doctors said.
Northwell further marked organ-donor registration day by having personnel with sign-up materials — and candy — at tables throughout the facility to encourage staff members and visitors to register as organ donors.
How To Register As An Organ Donor:
- Sign up at any New York State Department of Motor Vehicles when applying for, or renewing a driver’s license, or non-driver ID.
- Anyone with a New York driver’s license or non-driver ID card, can create a MyDMV account on the New York State DMV website.
- Download a form online, complete and sign it, and mail it in. A form is available on the New York State Department of Health’s website.