Two families whose lives had been touched by kidney disease and compassion revealed their most personal thoughts about organ donation and transplantation during Northwell Health’s annual Gift of Life celebration last Tuesday.
Before introducing each speaker, Lewis Teperman, vice chairman of surgery and director of the Northwell Health Transplant Center, urged the audience to spread the word about the importance of organ donation.
“Today is a day for the celebration of life,” said Teperman, “when we honor the people who gave so unselfishly. But, we need to do better. One way to do that would be to promulgate the idea of presumed consent in New York State. In other words, you opt out of transplantation instead on opting in. That would almost certainly increase the number of available organs. We must do a better job of organ donation in New York.”
On hand to lend her support from local government was State Senator Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck). During her remarks, she, too, urged New Yorkers to sign up for organ donation while noting the fact that New York ranked 50th out of all 50 states when it comes to the number of people registered as organ and tissue donors.
“An abysmal 35 percent of New York State residents are registered,” said Kaplan. “That compares to 56 percent of residents across the U.S. That means that there are 10,000 New Yorkers who are currently on waiting lists for transplant. It means that every 18 hours, one of our friends, one of our neighbors, or a member of our family dies while on that waiting list.”
She concluded by encouraging her audience “to make New York a leader by getting registered, and helping a friend or family member to do so as well.”
Teperman next introduced Pete Prudente, 59, of Glen Cove, and his wife, Allison. Prudente’s mission in life has always been to help others. For years, he generously donated blood and platelets. As a volunteer firefighter, Prudente continues to serve his community with pride and distinction. On March 25 (which also happens to be his birthday), Prudente chose to become an altruistic kidney donor.
“At first, I hoped to donate a kidney to a firefighter brother or sister in need,” he said. “When I couldn’t find that person, I went to Northwell’s Transplant Center and offered to donate. All I know now that my kidney went to a 60-year-old woman who was desperately in need. Now, she can continue to live a healthy life…I feel blessed that I could help her.”
What makes his story so remarkable is that Prudente’s blood type is B-negative – the same as his wife, Allison. Before coming in to donate a kidney, Prudente sat with his wife and discussed the fact that, should she need a kidney in the future, he would be unable to assist. Given the fact that B-negative patients can only receive from B-negative donors, this was a major consideration.
“My wife…my sweetheart…has always supported me in ever thing I do,” said Prudente. “She told me to go ahead and donate to someone who was in need at the moment. I am so grateful to her.”
Rounding out the program were Paul Monno, 59, of Wantagh, and his wife Heloisa. Monno was just 35 when he was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. Exactly 20 years later, the happily-married Monno went into kidney failure. His wife and sister rallied around their loved one, offering to be tested in the hopes of supplying him with a kidney.
“At the time, I was firm about not accepting a kidney from either of them,” said Monno, “even if they proved to be a match. But they both went ahead and got tested without my knowledge.”
Heloisa Monno was a perfect match.
“Everyone at North Shore University took such good care of us,” said Paul Monno. “Our surgery took place on September 10, 2018. We woke up next to each other in the recovery room after surgery. And, they even made sure that we had dinner together. As I always say, my wife and I started dating in 1970…we’ve had 40 beautiful years together. She’s always been by my side. And now she’s in my side. Definitely a perfect match.”
For more information about signing up for organ and tissue donation, visit https://donatelife.ny.gov/