WXXI AM News

Organ Donation

In the US, more than 36,000 organ transplants were performed in 2018. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, that number set a record high since national transplant data were first collected in 1988. However, the organ shortage continues. As of January 2019, there were more than 113,000 people on the national transplant waiting list. You'll meet a local donor family and a transplant recipient who share their stories on the value of organ donation.

An effort that launched more than two decades ago in Rochester to engage youth on city streets and to help teens find alternatives to drugs, gangs, and violence, is still operating. You'll see how how the effort is working, what’s changed, and you'll learn how residents have a role in helping young people find a pathway to peace.

Also on the show, a 21-year-old Hilton man passed on the gift of life and now his family is educating others about the meaning and value of organ donations. You'll hear from his father, the man whose life he saved, and others about the meaning of organ donation.

A new set of state laws have taken effect this year, one of them authorizing 16 and 17 year olds to make organ donations upon their death.

Previous law stated that the minimum age to make an anatomical gift was 18. As such, teens who applied through the Department of Motor Vehicles for a learner's permit could not register for the New York State Donate Life Registry.

Allowing young adults to register will subsequently increase donation rates, according to Nancy Ryan, the director of marketing and community relations for the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network.

Kidney donor and Georgetown M.D. candidate Michael Poulson caused a national stir with his piece in the Washington Post titled, "At 18 years old he donated a kidney. Now he regrets it." Poulson says that potential donors are being undersold the risks, and over-promised the safety. He's urging more transparency in the system.

But is he right? Our guests discuss their own experience and understanding of the safety of organ donation.

Meteorologist Scott Hetsko joins us in studio to talk about his remarkable road back to the airwaves. With a new heart, and new energy, Hetsko returned on the night of the Super Bowl. He talks about his advocacy for organ donation and about his favorite subject: forecasting our weather.

Veronica Volk / WXXI

The Ad Council of Rochester and the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network have a plan to get more New Yorkers to sign on as organ donors.

Rob Kochik is executive director of the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network. He says there are over 122,000 people on the organ waiting list.

"And when I think about them -- each of them woke up this morning, and are wondering if today's going to be the day."

Richard Perez waited 10 months for his liver. He doesn't know anything about his deceased donor, but he has a message for them and their family: