The number of New Jersey residents who are alive today as a result of organ transplants continues to grow, with 678 of the life-saving procedures performed in the state last year, according to the NJ Sharing Network. Heart transplants alone were up 18 percent over 2017, to 79.
According to the Sharing Network, the federally designated organization responsible for the recovery of organs and tissues in New Jersey, the steady rise in the state mirrors the national trend. The number of procedures performed in New Jersey is up 35 percent over the last six years, a period during which it has also set records each year across the country, with 36,500 procedures in the U.S. in 2018.
Of the life-saving transplants performed in New Jersey last year, 537 were made possible by donations from the deceased and an additional 141 came from living donors.
Nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents are currently awaiting a life-saving transplant, a list that grows by three people each day.
A press release issued by the Sharing Network tells the story of one grateful recipient.
Vernell Williams, a 50-year-old from Paterson who suffered from congestive heart failure, had waited months to receive a heart transplant and had nearly given up hope.
“The months that I spent in the hospital waiting for a new heart were the most challenging of my life. I’m an optimistic person, but I’d begun to think I was facing the end. That’s when I got the call — and Victor literally saved my life,” he said.
“Victor” was Victor Startek of Toms River, who passed away at the age of 27 and donated his heart and kidney. Startek had registered as an organ donor when he first got his New Jersey driver’s license. His mother, Deborah Martinez, and twin sister, Ashley Startek, said that knowing Victor had already made the decision was an enormous relief for them.
Victor was one of the nearly 40 percent of donors giving the gift of life in 2018 who had previously registered as a donor and made their wishes known to family and friends. This number also continues to grow.
To find out how to register as an organ/tissue donor, visit the NJ Sharing Network.