Opinion: NJ Sharing Network reminds residents that organ donations save lives
This opinion-editorial article by President and CEO of NJ Sharing Network Joe Roth originally appeared in the Times of Trenton
Two years ago, Rich Hayes of Princeton Junction was given eight, maybe 12, weeks to live. He was a busy sales executive and married father of two diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that was attacking his liver.
Medication no longer worked. At one point, he was so sick that his doctors put him in a drug-induced coma. His only chance was an organ transplant. He received the gift of a donated liver April 20, 2010.
Mr. Hayes, now 57, is alive today because a donor gave him the gift of life. By coincidence, tomorrow, April 20, is the inaugural National Donate Life Blue and Green Day. I and the many others who support organ donation will be wearing blue and green.
Mr. Hayes told me he signed up to be an organ donor himself decades earlier, but he never thought he would be the person who would someday need an organ. Today, he speaks to students at schools and talks to people waiting on line at Motor Vehicle agencies, where they are obtaining or renewing their driver's license and have the option to check "yes" to register as an organ donor.
Mr. Hayes' message is simple: "I am a living example that organ donation is the gift of life," he tells people.
At NJ Sharing Network, we spend every day of the year educating New Jersey residents about the critical need for more organ and tissue donors throughout the state. The month of April, associated with renewal and spring, is an especially important time, as it has been designated National Donate Life Month.
During Donate Life Month, we honor the generosity of organ and tissue donors and their families and celebrate our transplant recipients.
National Donate Life Blue and Green Day is a targeted campaign intended to radically increase the number of people registered to donate by drawing attention to this life-saving decision on both a local and national stage. New Jersey residents are encouraged to wear blue and green on April 20, and also to post photographs of loved ones on the Donate Life New Jersey and the Donate Life America Facebook pages to further build awareness.
There are more than 110,000 people across the country, 5,000 of them New Jerseyans, awaiting life-saving transplants. Mobilizing the community through National Donate Life Month, as well as the programs NJ Sharing Network undertakes throughout the year, ultimately saves many, many lives.
People may be surprised to know that New Jersey, with only 31 percent of its adults registered, ranks a disappointing 41st out of the 50 states in the number of registered organ and tissue donors. Blue and Green Day stands as a call to action throughout all 21 counties of the state. Its goal is to reach 50 percent of adults as registered donors by this time next year.
This year, state lawmakers, corporations, hospitals, media partners and many residents in New Jersey will be unified in their support of Blue and Green Day. They will be attending or hosting events at designated businesses, motor vehicle agencies, hospitals, municipalities and public meeting spaces. Participants are encouraged to partner with local restaurants, malls, media and community organizations to help spread awareness about organ and tissue donation and transplantation.
Liver transplant recipient Jim Rhatican, of Berkeley Heights, sees organ donation as a gift of love, noting he is alive because someone was willing to be an organ donor. If more people could register to give, there could be many more grateful people like Mr. Rhatican. And Mr. Hayes.
This month, NJ Sharing Network also has honored an individual who has truly made a difference. Mary DiNardo, a Jersey City native who now lives in Jefferson, received our annual Ray of Hope award. She is the widow of Detective Marc Anthony DiNardo of the Jersey City Police Department, who was killed in the line of duty in July 2009.
Mrs. DiNardo made the decision to donate her husband's organs and tissue, saving the lives of three New Jerseyans. Since then, she has helped create the Legacy of Heroes, a first-of-its-kind program in New Jersey, to help educate the community about the importance of registering to become a donor and to encourage first responders to pledge to become organ donors.
It is my hope that you will help mark Blue and Green Day in your community. If you are not an organ donor, please consider being one. If you already are, please encourage others to say yes to donating on their driver's license or online at www.NJSharingNetwork.org.
The need is great in New Jersey. You can help ensure that your friends and neighbors who may one day need a life-saving organ have the opportunity to receive one.