Photo by Luis Zapata
Jamaica Hospital celebrated National Donate Life Month last week.
By Naeisha Rose

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz declared April 20 “Life Day in Queens” at a flag raising ceremony attended by nearly 70 people last Friday to help raise awareness about organ donations for National Donate Life Month.

The event took place at Jamaica Hospital in Richmond Hill and was in collaboration with LiveOnNY, an organization that works to educate individuals about organ donation, help those in need of a transplant and provide support and comfort to donors and their loved ones, according to the nonprofit.

“It is a remarkable thing to come here year after year and listen to families stories,” Katz said. “One person can save at least eight lives and can make 50 others have a better quality of life.”

One of the families at the hospital was the Vega family from Bay Shore, L.I.

At the ceremony, Giraldo Vega reminisced about his son Anthony, who died in 2009 when he was 11 years old after dealing with years of surgery to treat hydrocephalus, a condition where there is excess fluid in the brain that puts pressure on it.

As Vega spoke about his son’s love for music, his younger son Ruben, 17, held up a picture of his big brother who had died a decade ago.

“Since he was a baby he loved to sing and dance,” Vega said about Anthony. “You could always expect a show. He loved to perform.”

After Anthony died on April 19, 2009, his father learned of other families whose family members were suffering as they awaited an organ transplant. Despite his own grief, he wanted to help those families heal.

“If Anthony could save one life — one family from losing their son, daughter or family member — what better way to give a performance of a lifetime? Our decision to donate his organs not only saved one person’s life, but three,” Vega said.

Ruben intends to honor his older brother by becoming an organ donor himself.

“It makes me feel good that he is saving lives after he passed away,” Ruben said.

Earlier in the week an organ donor at Jamaica Hospital donated a liver and two kidneys, which helped save a life.

“I got a call that said essentially if we didn’t go forward with this doanation, there’s a gentleman that would have died from liver failure,” Jamaica Hospital Chief Operating Officer Bill Lynch said.

LiveOnNY Chief Executive Officer and President Helen Irving said that New York City broke historic records in lives saved from transplants in 2017.

“There were 876 patients saved from a life-saving transplant,” Irving said. “It doesn’t matter if someone is on the registry, but it’s when we get that phone call that we recognize that there is someone who can potentially be an organ donor.”

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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