New state law could save lives

October 19, 2017 06:55 AM

Will a new state law save lives? You can now register to become an organ donor online thanks to an executive order signed by the governor this week.

In the Finger Lakes Region, there are fewer organ donors than the national average, but advocates and people waiting for lifesaving organs are hoping this new change makes a big difference.

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Tom Barbera totes around a 13 pound artificial heart. It beats 133 times every minute and it keeps Barbera alive. 

"I'm still not used to it. It beats so I can hear it, feel it, the valves are clicking in my neck," Barbera said. "It was either I live for two days or get an artificial heart and I said I have a family I want to live."

Barbera lives in Hilton with his family, but he has been in the hospital for one year total after doctors diagnosed him with heart failure.

"I contracted an autoimmune disease called Sarcoidosis and it attacked my left ventricle and my left ventricle started failing and eventually my right ventricle failed," Barbera said.

Barbera is waiting for a new heart, but waiting just got a little easier for him and so many others. Nancy Ryan from Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network says the executive order will allow more people to become organ donors.

"After about 10 years of having sort of a clunky enrollment process, New York is now able to offer its residents the opportunity to register as an organ donor completely online," Ryan said. 

Before that, people could only register when they renewed their license or by mailing in a form. Thirty-eight percent of people in the Finger Lakes have already registered to become organ donors and she expects digitizing the process will open doors for thousands of people waiting for life.

"Currently there are about 600 waiting just in the Finger Lakes for a lifesaving transplant, in New York State there are approximately 10,000 and in the country New York ranks 3rd highest in people waiting for transplants," Ryan said.

As one of the people in that number Barbera says, he'll stay patient as he waits for the right heart. In the meantime, he's hoping you'll consider giving one of the greatest gifts of all.

"You can be a hero and save so many lives," Barbera said. "It's unfortunate that you'd have to pass, but you can't take them with you."

Anyone age 16 or older can become an organ donor. To sign up, visit this site.


Kaci Jones

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