Joel Giambra is a former Erie County executive, and he's a kidney transplant survivor.
"At 2:00 on December the 10, I was at Erie County Medical Center, and at 11:00 that evening, I was on the operating table," said Giambra, a housing developer.
He's doing well now, but he knows he's not alone in his experience, as thousands face challenges waiting, hoping and praying for a donor.
His wait was nine months, but others are longer.
"Now I have a platform in which to get more people more interested in the whole idea of being an organ donor," Giambra said. "My whole family unfortunately has been afflicted with chronic kidney disease."
He's partnering with the Youth Coaltion for Organ Donation.
Grace Tapani tapinee, Evan Roden, and Henry McLaughlin are graduates of East Aurora High School, who happened to join the Donate Life Club.
"I joined kind of out of interest in local politics, and also kind of because with my dad having experience as a first responded, he was a firefighter in Connecticut and then we moved to East Aurora, I really kind of had a little bit more of a connection," said YCOD Legislative Coordinator Henry McLaughlin.
Moved by statistics and personal stories, the three are advocating for change; starting at the DMV.
They wrote up draft legislation that would have DMV staff ask people getting their driver's license if they want to not join the organ donor registry, and would have it written that way on paper too.
This is a change from people being asked if they do want to join.
"New Yorkers, we have a very busy schedule, our DMVs are crazy. You go in there and it's the last thing on your mind," said YCOD community organizer Grace Tapani.
"This change is really going to hopefully cause a mindset change in people in New York State," said YCOD student coordinator Evan Roden.
Giambra backs it too.
"The Youth Coalition for Organ Donation and myself are going to make this our cause for this year. We've already begun to talk to state legislators; Democrats, Republicans, assemblymembers, and senators and the response we're getting is very encouraging," Giambra said.
"I never thought that we would be the ones that are introducing this and getting this support that's just turning a bill that could change hundreds of thousands of people's lives," Tapani said.
In October, Governor Andrew Cuomo said more than 9,000 New Yorkers were awaiting an organ transplant.
Spectrum News reached out to the nonprofit, Donate Life New York State to see what their thoughts are about the effort.
Donate Life New York State Executive Director Aisha Tator said:
“Donate Life New York State (NYS) supports any organ and tissue donation system that enjoys the public’s confidence, honors the wishes of potential donors, and ultimately serves both to save lives and heal those in need. The passion for a brighter future embodied by these young New Yorkers is admirable, and we at Donate Life New York State wish every student shared in their commitment to this vital mission. We encourage the Legislature to explore opportunities to thoroughly examine “opt-out” approaches to donation, and to evaluate its effects in those nations where this system is currently in place. Regardless of the outcome of their proposal, Donate Life NYS is grateful that a new generation of New Yorkers are thinking innovatively to identify policies in an effort to address this public health crisis, and are raising awareness about the importance of organ and tissue donation. It is critical that together we identify solutions to New York’s organ shortage as each day nearly 9,500 men, women and children are currently waiting for a lifesaving transplant, and thousands more seek sight and health-restoring tissue transplants. Donate Life NYS stands ready to partner with New Yorkers young and old, our champions in the Legislature, and Governor Cuomo in efforts to prevent the deaths of hundreds of New York patients on the national transplant waitlist each year.”