Lutheran Medical Center seeks to educate public on organ donations

Dr. Anthony Geraci, vice president of the Department of Neurology-Rehabilitation at Lutheran Medical Center in Sunset Park, said he knows from personal experience how a donated organ can prolong a patient’s life.

Geraci’s father underwent a kidney transplant in 1974 and lived for another 37 years. At the time of his death in 2011, Mr. Geraci was one of the longest surviving kidney transplant recipients in the country.

"I can't express the importance of organ donation and signing up now," his son said. “I can hardly think of a more selfless and kind expression of humanity other than giving a complete stranger the gift of life."

In addition to his duties as VP one of Lutheran Medical Center’s busiest departments, Anthony Geraci is also chairman of the Lutheran HealthCare’s Organ Donor Council, a group that seeks to educate the public on the importance of organ donations. Lutheran HealthCare is the corporation that oversees the hospital and a string of health clinics across Brooklyn.

Geraci is spearheading an organ donor awareness event to be held on Wednesday, April 23, in the main lobby of the hospital, 150 55th St., from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Organ Donor Council is working in partnership with the New York Organ Donor Network to organize the educational event to highlight the impact of organ, eye, and tissue donation and to encourage people to enroll on the New York State Donate Life Registry.

Brooklyn residents are invited to attend the event, meet New York Organ Donor Network staff members, and learn more about the organ donation process, including the facts and common misconceptions about donating organs.

The event is timed to coincide with Donate Life Month in April.

There is a lot happening on the organ donation front. The New York Alliance for Donation, a not-for-profit organization composed of organ and tissue recovery organizations throughout the state, health professionals and individuals whose lives have been affected by donation,  is lauding Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature for taking steps to improve the performance of the New York State Donate Life Registry.

The 2014-15 state budget approved in Albany last month allows for the transfer of administration of the state donor registry to a not-for-profit organization with experience facilitating organ, eye and tissue donation.

"New York will now join nearly every other state by establishing this partnership with a private organization to increase organ donations. It gives new hope to thousands of New Yorkers waiting for their chance to receive the gift of life through an organ transplant," said Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Sunset Park), who sponsored the legislation.

"This change in policy will save and improve lives of New Yorkers by creating a technologically advanced, highly-functioning and user-friendly organ, eye and tissue donor registry," said Aisha Tator, executive director of the alliance.

"I want to thank Governor Cuomo and members of the senate and assembly for their efforts concerning the Donate Life Registry. With their help we will be able to continue to educate New Yorkers on the wonderful gift of organ donation. It will save thousands of lives in New York,’ said 12-year-old Lauren Shields, a heart transplant recipient from Rockland County.

Rachael Adler, 13, a kidney transplant recipient from upstate New York, said she will work to increase organ donations. "I was a happy and healthy kid when I got sick and found out I needed a kidney transplant. I realized this could happen to anyone which inspired me to do whatever I can to increase donation. I want to provide new hope for those people waiting for a transplant," she said.

Every year, more than 1,500 New Yorkers receive kidneys, livers, and hearts that have been donated for transplants, according to the alliance.

But more than 10,000 New Yorkers are still on waiting lists, the organization noted.

One person donating 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 12 or more lives by restoring eyesight, helping fight infections in burn patients and prevent the loss of mobility and disability, according to the alliance.