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Celebrating Organ, Eye and Tissue Donation

October 12, 2017

Each year, more than 1,600 New Yorkers receive kidneys, livers, lungs, and hearts that have been donated for transplantation. However, nearly 9,500 New Yorkers are still on the waiting lists for a life-saving organ to become available. Unfortunately, an average of 450 do not receive the call in time and die before a transplant is available.

One person who donates organs (hearts, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas and intestine) can save up to eight lives, while tissue donors (corneas, bone, skin, heart valves, tendons, veins, etc.) can improve seventy-five or more lives by restoring eyesight, helping fight infections in burn patients and prevent the loss of mobility and disability.

By enrolling in the New York State Donate Life Registry, you are giving legal consent for the recovery of your organs, tissues and eyes for the purposes of transplantation and research at the time of your death.

To learn more about organ, eye and tissue donation, visit the following pages:
Donation Facts
Donation FAQ
Professional Education
Public Education
Resource Links

Financial Support

Financial contributions from corporations, foundations and individuals support the mission of Donate Life New York State: to increase organ, eye, and tissue donation in order to ensure a transplant for every New Yorker. 

Corporate and Foundation Support

National Donate Life Month

Across the entire country throughout the month of April, thousands of people make a special effort to celebrate the tremendous generosity of those who have saved lives by becoming organ, eye, tissue, marrow, and blood donors. We also take this time to encourage more Americans to follow their example and join the Donate Life Registry. Several activities are organized during this month to call attention to the need for organ and tissue donation, the impact donation has in saving lives of other individuals and the importance of people making their wishes known to their family in the event of an untimely death.

What Can You Do? Here are some specific ways you can help the cause!

Julio Garcia's Story (Donor)

Posted by: 
New York Alliance for Donation


HANDS ON HIS HEART Mirtala Garcia, right, and her children touched Sebastiao Lourenco's chest, where the heart of Mrs. Garcia's husband beats. The husband, Julio Garcia, died in March 2010.

Mirtala Garcia laid a hand on Sebastiao Lourenco’s chest, then pressed her ear there for a moment.

“That’s my heart,” she said. “It’s still beating for me.”

Although she had just met Mr. Lourenco, she had known his heart for a long time. It had belonged to her husband, Julio, who died from a brain hemorrhage in March 2010, at the age of 38. Mrs. Garcia donated her husband’s organs, and the family’s loss led to a second chance for Mr. Lourenco, 57.

But he was not the only one. Seven or eight other people who urgently needed transplants also received organs from Mr. Garcia, an unusually large number. (The average from organ donors is about three.) Even more unusual, his family and a group of recipients met on Wednesday in a highly emotional gathering at the Manhattan headquarters of the New York Organ Donor Network, which coordinated the transplants.

The story of the Garcias and the people whose lives were saved by one man’s donated organs provides a close look at the charged world of transplants and organ donation, where people on the transplant list know they may die waiting, and the families of brain-dead patients are asked, at perhaps the most painful time in their lives, to look beyond their own grief and allow a loved one’s organs to be removed to help strangers.

There are nowhere near enough donor organs for all the people who need transplants. Nearly 111,000 are on waiting lists in the United States, but last year, only 28,663 transplants were performed, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees the transplant system nationwide. This year, 6,000 to 7,000 people are expected to die waiting.

Last week, Mrs. Garcia and her children, 5, 11 and 18, who all live in Stamford, Conn., met four of the recipients of her husband’s organs for the first time. A fifth recipient also attended, one of two people with renal failure, both members of the Garcias’ church, whom Mrs. Garcia chose to receive kidneys.

Mrs. Garcia addressed a room packed with recipients, families, doctors, nurses, her minister and his family and network employees. She spoke briefly through an interpreter. She said her husband had had a big heart and would be very proud “to give life after death.” No one would ever forget him, she said.

Last week, Mrs. Garcia and her children, 5, 11 and 18, who all live in Stamford, Conn., met four of the recipients of her husband’s organs for the first time. A fifth recipient also attended, one of two people with renal failure, both members of the Garcias’ church, whom Mrs. Garcia chose to receive kidneys.

Mrs. Garcia addressed a room packed with recipients, families, doctors, nurses, her minister and his family and network employees. She spoke briefly through an interpreter. She said her husband had had a big heart and would be very proud “to give life after death.” No one would ever forget him, she said.

Elaine R. Berg, president of the donor network, said: “These meetings don’t happen that frequently. I’ve been here 11 years, and if it’s once a year that’s a lot. I’ve never met five recipients from one donor. It’s highly unusual.”

In many cases recipients or donor families, or both, choose to remain anonymous, Ms. Berg said. Recipients may send thank-you letters through the network, but they and donors do not often choose to meet.

“It’s pretty intimidating and pretty emotional,” Ms. Berg said. “Some people cannot bear it.”

But she said that meeting the recipients can bring solace to donor families.

Mr. Garcia was so young and strong that his corneas and six organs were healthy enough to transplant: his heart, one lung, his pancreas, both kidneys and his liver, which was divided to save two people, an adult and a child.

In photographs, Julio Garcia was handsome, with a mischievous smile. His wife said he loved to joke and laugh. But he was also deeply religious, and as a pastor at their evangelical church in Stamford he did a lot of preaching and marriage counseling. He earned his living as a carpenter. Both he and his wife, originally from Guatemala, became naturalized citizens.

For many years, he had suffered periodically from severe headaches, but he had been told they were migraines. The headaches were unusually bad during the week or so before March 17, a Wednesday. That day, his head hurting, he told his children he loved them and went to work.

He called his wife that afternoon, saying the pain was terrible and he was going numb all over. She wanted to call an ambulance, but he asked her to pick him up instead. She drove him to a hospital in Stamford. A major hemorrhage and swelling were putting pressure on his brain. Doctors tried to relieve the pressure, and then transferred Mr. Garcia to NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital in Manhattan.

By the time he arrived there on Wednesday night, he was in a deep
 coma, needed a ventilator to breathe and had extremely low blood pressure — all signs of a large hemorrhage affecting the brain stem, according to Dr. Axel Rosengart, the director of neurocritical care. Doctors stabilized him and tried again to reduce the pressure on his brain, but scans showed extensive, irreversible damage, Dr. Rosengart said.

Dr. Rosengart said he was not certain but suspected that the bleeding was caused by an arteriovenous malformation, a blood vessel abnormality that Mr. Garcia may have had from birth.

By Thursday, Dr. Rosengart said, he began to warn the family that Mr. Garcia was heading toward brain death. Later that day, the diagnosis was made twice, by two different physicians, in accord with state law. A patient with brain death is legally dead. At that point, there were two priorities, Dr. Rosengart said: “the family and their emotional survival, and preserving the organs.”

Brain-dead patients can become medically unstable, and intensive treatment is often needed to prevent their organs from failing.

Dr. Rosengart and a social worker from the New York Organ Donor Network asked Mrs. Garcia about organ donation.

At first, Mrs. Garcia recalled, she could not accept the diagnosis of brain death. Still hoping a miracle would save her husband, she asked them to wait.

The next day, Friday, it became clear to her that her husband would not recover. Dr. Rosengart and the social worker, Michelle Aguiar, asked her to think about what Mr. Garcia would have wanted.

“More than half the time, if you offer somebody the chance to save a life when their head is clear, you know they’re going to say yes,” Ms. Aguiar said. “The timing is crucial.”

She said that 70 percent of the families she asked gave consent, which is one of the highest rates in the New York network.

Mrs. Garcia said she thought about how important it had been to her husband to help other people. She recalled a movie they had watched, “Seven Pounds,” about a man who donates organs. Mr. Garcia had said that it would be a great thing to save lives, and that if anyone ever got his heart, he hoped she would meet that person. She recalled another movie in which someone had wound up in a coma, after which Mr. Garcia said he would not want his family to see him linger that way.

She talked to relatives and her minister. Finally, Mrs. Garcia thought of her friend Milvia Palma, who needed a kidney transplant. She heard Ms. Palma’s voice in her mind, saying, “I’m sick.” And in that moment, the decision was made. Mr. Garcia had said that God would provide for Ms. Palma. Who could have known that it would be through his own death?

On Friday night, Mrs. Garcia signed the consent forms. The donor network went into action, locating patients at the top of transplant lists, looking for matches in blood type, body size and other factors.

Patients at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia hospital were eligible for the heart, liver and lung; a 1-year-old at Mount Sinai would also receive part of the liver, and Ms. Palma and Edward Santos, another friend and church member, would get the kidneys. The pancreas would go to a patient in Minnesota, who has chosen to remain anonymous.

The first operations were scheduled for Sunday. Thomas Ginz, 67, from Guilford, Conn., got the call at 6:30 in the morning.

“You get a slip from the hospital that you can give to the police so you can actually speed to get there if you have to, because time is of the essence,” Mr. Ginz said. (He did not have to use it.)

Mr. Ginz, who has a disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which scars the lungs, needed oxygen all the time and was deteriorating so rapidly that even his doctor had begun to worry that a transplant might not come in time.

Now, Mr. Ginz wondered if the operation would really happen. A month earlier, lungs had become available and he was called in as a backup candidate and fully prepped for surgery. As it turned out, another patient was a better fit. Many transplant candidates go through these nerve-racking dry runs. But this time, his surgeon said, “Tom, you’re up,” and whisked him off to the operating room.

Jo Ann Laskaris, 69, from Manhattan, had also wondered if she would survive long enough to receive a transplant. She had liver cancer, caused by hepatitis C, which she had contracted from a blood transfusion when she was in her 20s. Doctors were struggling to keep the disease from spreading beyond her liver. She received the right lobe, the larger segment of Mr. Garcia’s liver.

The smaller left lobe went to Braylen Benitez, a toddler from the Bronx with a congenital liver disease, whose body had just rejected a transplant.

Mr. Lourenco, 57, who lives in Jackson Heights, Queens, had severe heart failure and was in the hospital when word of the transplant came. For two years he had needed an implanted pump to help his weakened heart, and he, like the others, saw his time running out.

Mr. Santos, 43, had kidney failure caused by diabetes, which had already damaged his sight and led to the amputation of his lower leg. Dialysis treatments left him feeling ill and weak, and as one after another patient at the clinic died, he wondered if he would share their fate.

After the operations, Ms. Laskaris and Mr. Ginz’s wife wrote Mrs. Garcia to thank her, and said they hoped to meet her some day.

Last week, the recipients and their families hugged and thanked her and her children. Several said they felt a powerful bond to her and her family. Mr. Lourenco, an artist, gave her one of his paintings. Ms. Laskaris asked if she and her family might attend Mrs. Garcia’s church.

For most, it had not been an easy year. Several had suffered from infections and frightening episodes of rejection, and all were dealing with complicated regimens of anti-rejection pills and other medicines. But all were grateful to be alive and were keenly aware that their survival had depended on someone else’s death, and the kindness of his family.

Mrs. Garcia and her children have lived with loss and sadness. And without her husband’s earnings, Mrs. Garcia, who cleans houses, struggles to pay her rent and feed the family. But she said she finds comfort, and sometimes even joy, in thinking that her husband lives on through other people, and that he would have wanted it that way.

Donate Life New York State Welcomes New Board Member Michael Heinley

January 15, 2019
Board of Directors unanimously approves nomination
Albany, NY —Donate Life New York State (NYS), a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing organ, eye and tissue donation statewide, welcomes Michael Heinley, Partner, Deputy New York Health Group, of Finn Partners to the Board of Directors.

"We are pleased to have Michael join our Board and look forward to his contributions to Donate Life NYS' mission," said Aisha Tator, Executive Director of Donate Life New York State (NYS). "Michael is a leader in healthcare communications and understands the powerful impact public relations and effective messaging can have on raising awareness of the need to increase organ and tissue donations in New York. His expertise will be invaluable in our efforts to ensure a transplant for every New Yorker in need."

Heinley is a recognized healthcare industry veteran with 25 years of experience working in corporate communication roles for many of the world's most respected and trusted innovator companies, including Johnson & Johnson, Merck and WebMD.


Teenage the Right Age to Join the Organ and Tissue Registry

February 14, 2017

Life-changing legislation signed into law by Governor Cuomo in August 2016 takes effect today, February 14, 2017, potentially impacting thousands. The bill, A.4990B-Ortiz/S.5313A-Hannon, allows sixteen and seventeen-year-olds to express their intent to be organ, eye and tissue donors by enrolling in the New York State Donate Life Registry. With this law, New York joins 48 other registries, including Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, where there is either no age restriction to join the donor registry, or the minimum age is younger than eighteen.

NYAD Recognized for Advancing Organ and Tissue Donation in State

December 12, 2016

TARRYTOWN, NY- The New York Alliance for Donation (NYAD) and its Executive Director, Aisha Tator, are being recognized by The Transplant Support Organization (TSO) with its Outstanding Leadership Award. This award recognizes the organization's hard work and dedication to improving the rate of organ, eye and tissue donation in New York State. TSO, a not-for-profit dedicated to the support of its members and the advancement of organ, eye, and tissue donation and transplantation, will honor NYAD and Tator on December 12, 2016 at their annual Celebration of Life Holiday Party.

Young Adult Enrollment Bill (S.5313-A/A.4990-B) Championed by Assemblyman Ortiz and Senator Hannon Signed Into Law

September 23, 2016

With assistance from the statewide donation community, New York Alliance for Donation (NYAD) announces the successful passage of legislation (S.5313-A/A.4990-B) that will permit New Yorkers aged 16 or older to enroll in the NYS Donate Life Registry. Prior to this legislation, the minimum age required for enrollment was eighteen. Now, sixteen and seventeen year olds will be able check "yes" and join the NYS Donate Life Registry when visiting the DMV to obtain a learner's permit, registering to vote, or any other means allowable by the NYS Department of Health.

The law is removing barriers for young adults to fulfill what they feel is an important community responsibility, signing up as an organ and tissue donor. This is a significant change in policy for New York State and was a crucial step towards reducing the number of people waiting for their lifesaving transplant.

The bill, which was signed into law by Governor Cuomo on August 17, 2016, makes New York the forty-ninth state to have either no restriction on the minimum age for an organ and tissue donor or allow for registration at an age younger than 18. The new law goes into effect February 14, 2017.


ACTION ALERT! Young Adult Enrollment Legislation Needs Your Help!

June 1, 2016

The New York Alliance for Donation (NYAD) is launching an important call to action to urge the CO-SPONSORS of the Young Adult legislation (A.4990-B/S.5313-A), which authorizes persons 16 years of age or older to enroll in the New York State Donate Life Registry, to contact Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and urge him to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. We will be contacting our champions that support the legislation and asking them to advocate to the Speaker on our behalf.

As NYAD is requesting that you call ALL the legislators in the table below that correspond with your region by Fri., June 10. These are NOT constituency based calls, so you will not be necessarily contacting your representative. You will be calling ALL the co-sponsors of the Young Adult legislation in your areas (in NYC there will be a significant number lawmakers that need to be contacted by each volunteer). Below are the instructions for the alert:

  1. Review the table below and identify ALL the co-sponsors in your region (i.e. Capital District, NYC, Lower Hudson Valley, etc.).
  2. Using the provided contact information, call ALL the lawmakers in your region and deliver the following message:

"I wanted to thank the Assemblymember for supporting A.4990B, which would allow sixteen and seventeen year olds to register their intent to donate their organs, eyes, and tissue in the Donate Life Registry. We are seeking your assistance in getting this bill passed before the end of the legislative session. We would greatly appreciate it if the Assemblymember would communicate their support of the bill to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and urge him to allow the bill to be voted on in the Assembly."

Your voice is critically important to our efforts to expand opportunities for New Yorkers to enroll in the Donate Life Registry. If you have any questions or need additional information, please do not hesitate to NYAD's Executive Director, Aisha Tator at 518-326-3237 x 12 or by email at

Thank you for being an advocate for the donation community!

New Law Gives New Yorkers Another Opportunity to Register as Lifesaving Organ Donors

May 26, 2016

Governor Cuomo signs legislation that provides the option to enroll in the New York State Donate Life Registry on New York State of Health applications

Albany, NY- The New York Alliance for Donation (NYAD) is pleased to announce that Governor Cuomo has signed A.9667-A (Gunther) / S.6952-A (Hannon) into law. Beginning in 2017, New Yorkers applying for health insurance through the New York State of Health Benefit Exchange, will have the opportunity to enroll in the New York State Donate Life Registry directly on their health plan applications.