It’s the beginning of April and, as the fresh spring air brings a renewed sense of life to Western New York, it also brings with it National Donate Life Month. Americans are encouraged to consider becoming an organ donor and giving the gift of life.
On Wednesday, Niagara County Legislature Chairman Wm. Keith McNall, Niagara County Clerk Joseph Jastrzemski and Legislator Rebecca Wydysh raised the “Donate Life” flag in front of the Niagara County Courthouse. It will be displayed for the entire month to show support. This year’s theme is “Life is a Beautiful Ride.”
New York state has the third-greatest need for donors in the U.S., yet it has the second-lowest donor registry enrollment in the country. Only 32 percent of all residents age 18 and older are registered to become organ and tissue donors, compared to the national average of over 50 percent.
“Donate Life Month reminds us the importance of organizations like UNYTS and what they do each and every day in our community to save lives,” McNall said.
Niagara County has been moving in the right direction over the past few years in getting more people registered as organ donors. Back in 2015, the percentage of registered donors was at 46 percent. There has been a noticeable increase in 2019.
“One of the things I am most proud of under my leadership and hard work of our staff in our DMV offices is that we have increased the registry rate from 46 percent to 50.8 percent with 85,982 individuals enrolled in the New York state Donate Life registry – successfully bringing Niagara County closer to being above the national average,” Jastrzemski said.
The need for organ donors has never been greater. In New York, there are approximately 9,500 people waiting for an organ transplant. Of that number, 1,700 have been on the waiting list for more than five years. In 2017, 400 New Yorkers died due to a shortage of donors.
For those already registered as donors, or those looking for additional ways to help, blood donations are also needed.
“I sponsor several UNYTS blood-drives in my district throughout the year, and we are currently organizing more drives to expand the outreach, encouraging everyone to register and donate,” Wydysh said. She serves as chairwoman of the Community Services Committee.
In New York, anyone 16 and older can enroll. Those interested can stop in at one of the Niagara County DMV office locations and complete an enrollment card to register to be an organ donor.
Enrollment also is available online at www.donatelife.ny.gov. No matter which method one chooses to enroll, enrollees will receive confirmation by mail from the New York State Department of Health. At that time, one can specify which organs and tissues to exclude from donation.
For more information, visit www.donatelifeny.org.