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Local organ donation recipients reflect on ‘National Organ Donor Day’

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German Health Minister Jens Spahn holds a donor card during a press conference to present a draft law to encourage organ donorship on April 1, 2019 in Berlin. (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) – February 14th is a day for love, but it’s also for something else. The date doubles as National Organ Donor Day. In the Finger Lakes Region, nearly 900 people are waiting for life saving organ transplants. And across the U.S. every 10 minutes a new person is added to to the national transplant waiting list. 

Richard Perez and Julia Yaw are donor recipients. Julia is a two-time organ transplant recipient, and Richard received a liver transplant 16 years ago.  They say they know how life-changing a transplant can be. 

I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for my donor. For the past 16 years I watched my son have twins, get married… The wonderful things in life I’ve been able to do these 16 years of survival,” said Perez. 

Both Perez and Yaw credit their donors for giving them a second chance at life.

“Both donors I am extremely grateful for, and I just strive everyday to continue to show them how grateful I am,” said Yaw.

Perez and Yaw spent part of today tabling at Strong Memorial Hospital and registering new people as organ donors. They’re both fully committed to the cause. 

Yaw works to raise awareness for the cause through the Northeast Kidney foundation. She’s currently planning the foundation’s annual Catwalk for Kidney Fashion Show fundraiser. Perez is one of Donate Life’s most dedicated volunteers. He’s registered over 1000 people as organ donors, and received the Jefferson award for public service for his work. 

Yaw says that both she and Perez have the same mission. They’re working to chip away at the number of people on the donor waiting list. 

“There’s so many people that have been waiting for years for a donor and they don’t have one,” said Yaw. 

The Finger Lakes region has seen some improvement.  According to the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network, 52 percent of the region’s population over age 18 is registered as organ donors. That number has increased significantly over the last few years. Just 5 years ago, the percentage of the population registered as donors was 29 percent. That’s compared to the state average of 39 percent. 

Yaw says that it’s important the number of donors registered in the region continues to grow. 

“They need to increase. We’re glad they’re increasing, but there’s more work to be done and we won’t quit until we reach every family,” said Yaw.

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