Advocates Conclude National Donate Life Month

Stephanie Bontempi, Guy Calla, Leslie Kennedy, Ed Schafer, and Pete Prudente.

Advocates of organ donation assembled outside of the Rose Caracappa Auditorium of the Suffolk County Legislature to raise awareness for ‘National Donate Life Month’ on April 21. 

National Donate Life Month is celebrated every April and features a full month of activities to encourage organ donor registration. In the state of New York, there are almost 10,000 people that are in need a life-saving organ transplant. 

Guy Calla, Chief of Staff for Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffery, was joined by his wife, Lisa, to discuss their experience as living organ donors – each being a kidney donor. 

“There are a lot of myths surrounding [living donation],” said Calla, “but I assure you the good that you will be doing someone else and their families are worth it.” 

Firefighter Pete Prudente recounted his pathway to donation, which originally started with his desire to donate to a fellow firefighter. Eventually, however, he found an organ match outside of his immediate firefighter fraternity. It wound up being a perfect match, and Prudente went into surgery at the next available opportunity. He has never once regretted his decision. 

Shannon Mulroy spoke to the uncertainty that families face waiting for a donor. She also attested to the relief families feel when a donor is finally located, and the suffering of their loved one is finally alleviated. 

The issue is national, with wait times varying across states. In New York, it is very easy to sign up to be an organ donor. When you renew your license or register to vote, you can sign up to be a donor. You can also visit donatelife.ny.gov to find out more information and place your name on the registry. 

The donor registry is only for deceased donations. Other types of donations (living donation, tissue donation, and pediatric donation) are made after consultation with a physician to verify if you are a match. There are many resources to assist live donors, including reimbursement for the cost of any associated travel or lost wages. 

Shannon Mulroy, whose daughter received an organ from Lisa Calla, recently became an altruistic organ donor herself eight months ago. “I donated to a stranger altruistically; it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life,” said Calla. 

A full list of conference attendees is as follows: Karen Cummings, Senior Community Affairs & Government Affairs Liaison at LiveonNY; Legislator Leslie Kennedy; Legislator Stephanie Bontempi; Guy Calla, Chief of Staff for Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey and altruistic donor; Ed Schafer, heart recipient; Katrina Erksin, donor mother; James Mateiko, donor son; Pete Prudente, firefighter and altruistic kidney donor; Lisa Calla, donor to Julia Mulroy; and, Shannon Mulroy, mother of kidney recipient and altruistic kidney donor.

Staff Writer for The Messenger Papers.