Young people across New York State turning sixteen or seventeen this year may not only receive presents on their birthday, they'll now be able to *give an important one, the gift of life. Time Warner Cable News reporter Rebecca Vogt looks into Governor Cuomo's latest legislation on teen organ donation.
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- "You wait, and you pray, and you hope,” said Barbara Breckenridge.
Barbara Breckenridge said that's what goes through your mind when you're in need of an organ donation, and she would know, having suffered from kidney failure in 1996. Three years later, she got the call.
"Someone had signed the donor card while he was alive,” said Breckenridge, Executive Director of the Kidney Foundation of WNY. “Just celebrated 17 years. All because someone made that decision to save someone's life."
Now, thousands of folks waiting and praying across New York State will have a little bit more hope, as Governor Cuomo expanded organ and tissue donation registration to minors. The new law signed Thursday allows 16 and 17-year-olds to join the Donate Life Registry.
"It's been 18 and over for years, consenting to donation. While this is not consent, it's intent, letting their family know they want to be donors upon their death is great,” said Sara Diina of Unyts.
Safeguards in the legislation give parents and legal guardians the right to pull that decision if the teen passes away before the age of 18. Brenda Hudson, who had a failed kidney donation and is waiting for another, added it means more organs could potentially become available.
"I didn't realize so many people were waiting until I started doing it. When you see one person get it all you can do is be happy for them and pray your turn is next,” Hudson said.
While Unyts explained Erie County has made great strides in encouraging folks to sign up at the DMV, New York as a whole has the lowest rate of registered donors in the U.S. That's why they said passage and signing of this law is so important , we're told 1 donor can save up to eight lives.
"So many of them want to sign up to be organ donors. Now when they get their license for the first time, they'll be able to do that. I think it will be very well received,” said Patti Merritt of The Kidney Connection.
"And this means so much for the families of those donors, it's something positive they can take away. It's a legacy their loved one left behind,” Diina said. “There's really nothing more powerful than that."