Forest Hills resident urges New Yorkers to become organ donors
by Jennifer Khedaroo
Oct 17, 2018 | 2323 views | 0 0 comments | 142 142 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In December 2015, 69-year-old Virginia Spolan suffered a heart attack so traumatic that she doesn’t remember any of the details.

Instead, she found herself waking up from a medically induced coma two months later at North Shore University Hospital.

In December 2017, she underwent surgery to install a device that artificially pumps her heart. While she can still walk, everyday tasks are a struggle for her.

“I have 11 grandchildren, and I’d like to be here to see them get married and have grandkids of their own,” Spolan said.

On October 10, also known as Organ Donor Enrollment Day, Spolan joined doctors at North Shore University Hospital to urge New Yorkers to register as organ donors.

“I would like to get a heart,” she said. “I’m always looking at the phone and waiting for the call.”

Spolan moved to top of the organ recipient list after suffering two infections from her left ventricular assist device, but she has no idea when she will receive a new heart.

More than 120,000 people across the country are awaiting organ donations. But Dr. Lewis Teperman, director of transplantation at North Shore, said deceased donors only provide about 18,000 organs a year.

“What that means, quite simply, is that we don’t have enough organs to fill the need,” he said. “We know that transplantation works, but we need the donors.”

New York has one of the lowest rates of donor enrollment. The United Network for Organ Sharing reports that more than 7,550 New Yorkers are waiting for kidneys, and 324 are waiting for hearts.

“One of the things that is important for recipients is that they can go back to providing for their communities, and that may be in a supportive role such as a grandparent helping with the grandkids or for younger people being able to get back to work and being able to live,” said Dr. David Majure, medical director of Northwell’s Mechanical Circulatory Support (LVAD) Program.

“It’s very difficult if you’re on dialysis or if you have limitations from heart failure or if you have a failing liver to be in society,” he added. “By giving these organs, you’re able to help people get back to being functioning members of society.”

Transplant recipient Shari Schnall underwent the process with Teperman 13 years ago. She said there are a lot of misconceptions about organ donation, and notes that most religions support it.

“I’m alive because of my donor,” she said. “It’s an amazing gift that you can give that’s unlike any other. It takes two minutes of your life to sign up.”

Like Spolan, Bellmore resident Simone Tibbits requires a transplant. The 40-year-old was diagnosed with Lupus in 2008, shortly after giving birth. She has been on dialysis since 2011, and on the kidney transplant list since 2015.

There are approximately 100,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list, and many wait anywhere from five to ten years for a kidney from a deceased donor.

“We see so many terrible things in the news these days,” said Dr. Elliot Grodstein, a surgical oncologist at Northwell. “The best part of my job is seeing people who make the decision to donate in order to help save a life.

To register to become an organ donor, visit for the national donor list, for the state list, or
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