By MICHAEL HEUSNER
An organ donor network pleaded for donations in an emotional Long Island press conference with several organ donors and recipients on Tuesday.
LiveOnNY Inc., a non-profit group that evaluates and recovers organs, as well as educating the public about organ donation and providing care for donor families held the press conference at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset.
According to the organization, there are 120,000 people waiting for donations nationally, with 10,000 in NY State. To highlight the importance of donating, three families spoke about their experiences with transplants.
Jose and Eliana Soto are a father and daughter donor pair, with Eliana donating her kidney to her father after discovering she was the best match for him out of everyone they knew. Jose teared up as he described his daughter’s bravery in going along with the procedure, even though he initially did not want her to.
“Once the kids found out what was going on I was out of the loop,” he said, as he held back tears. “I thought science and god would find a cure for me, if that didn’t happen, it’s okay.”
His daughter saw matters another way.
“We don’t often get the opportunity to give life back to the person that gave it to us.,” she said.
Margaret Valeschi, the mother of a man who died and had his organs donated said that knowing that her son’s organs went to four different people and saved four different lives lessened the pain. She and her family became especially close with a British man who received her son’s heart.
She described the moment she felt his chest, “I felt my son’s heart beat in another person’s chest, and that moment was beautiful.” She even considered the man’s children to be her own grandchildren.
Desiree Mitchell and Roy Mitchell were probably the most emotional speakers, as they recalled the moment their newborn daughter, who was born with several rare eye disorders, and would have grown up blind, saw them for the first time thanks to two separate donors. Desiree Mitchell broke down in tears as she described the moment she learned that one of the donated eyes came from a 15-year-old girl, and the other from a 24-year-old man.
The press conference culminated in a flag raising ceremony, with the assistance of Steve Somers, a young eagle scout who was dedicated to getting people to sign up to become organ donors.
Through the stories of those who’s lives were impacted by organ donation, LiveOnNY urged the public to sign up to become a donor, either online or the next time they visited the DMV.