“I know it’s very difficult when you’re looking death in the eyes,” said Barbara Kuzminski, conveying the importance of organ sharing on Nov. 19 at Christ Hospital.
Her grandson Jonathon was 20 months old when he passed away tragically in May 2011.
“He was transported from Bayonne Hospital to St. Peter’s Hospital,” she said.
She said the staff at both hospitals offered a lot of support.
The N.J. Sharing Network, the non-profit organization responsible for the recovery of organs and tissue for nearly 5,000 New Jersey residents awaiting life-saving transplants, presented Bayonne Medical Center, Hoboken University Medical Center and Christ Hospital in Jersey City with its Circle of Life Award.
The honor is awarded to New Jersey hospitals that demonstrate a steadfast commitment to saving and enhancing lives through the miracle of organ and tissue donation and transplantation during the N.J. Sharing Network’s 25th anniversary year.
A choice for families
“When you’re dealing with a child or an infant, the last thing on your mind is organ donation,” Kuzminski said. “If it wasn’t for the staff at the hospital following protocol, my family wouldn’t have been given the choice to say yes – which is very important to us. We didn’t realize how important it was to us until we got to meet Wyatt.”
Holding up a picture of her grandson and Wyatt, Kuzminski started to cry, saying that 18 months later, the boy who had received her grandson’s liver had fully recovered.
Had her family not been offered the choice to say yes, Wyatt would not likely have survived.
Her family got to meet Wyatt later.
“Seeing his smile reaffirmed that our decision was the right thing,” she said. “Seeing him running, laughing, even though it was someone else’s child, not my grandson, it was very important to us. I can’t even say how grateful we are to see another boy living because of my grandson.”
She remembered the week when they had to choose and the consultations made over it.
“My son came out and said, ‘We have a chance to save eight children’s lives, I can’t say no.’ I was never so proud to be a mom and a grandmother at that time.”
Since then, she has become involved with N.J. Sharing Network, not only because of her grandson and Wyatt, but because she found out that Hudson County was ranked last in the state for organ donations.
“I was floored. I said we have to do something and we have,” she said, noting that she started out in Bayonne and then branched out to Jersey City, setting up information tables at motor vehicle offices, universities, city halls and other places. “We got out there with my story and when it gets personal, people listen and we’ve raised those numbers. We told my grandson’s story and what a hero he is.”
The three Hudson County hospitals, which provide the vast majority of healthcare services for residents of the state’s fifth most populated county, received the prestigious award during a ceremony at Christ Hospital in Jersey City for their long-standing commitment to assist N.J. Sharing Network with the recovery of organs and tissue after a patient has passed away. Organs recovered from one patient can save up to eight lives, while tissue, such as skin, bone, heart valves and corneas, can enhance the lives of up to 50 patients.
“The need for organ and tissue donation is one of the most difficult and sensitive topics members of the medical community can have with patients and families. The fact that members of our hospital staff in conjunction with the N.J. Sharing Network are so successful in this endeavor speaks to their caring and compassion for all patients and their families, which are cornerstones of our profession,” said Peter Kelly, CEO of Christ Hospital.
“I can’t even say how grateful we are to see another boy living because of my grandson.” – Barbara Kuzminski
Nationwide, there are over 115,000 people waiting for life-saving transplants, and 18 people a day die waiting. Transplant centers in the state completed 622 transplants in 2011 as a result of donations. While 43 percent of drivers nationwide have indicated on their licenses that they would donate organs, Hudson County remained last in the state until recently.
“As the newcomer to Hudson County, I am enormously impressed with the dedication of Bayonne Medical Center, Christ Hospital and Hoboken University Medical Center and its employees in supporting organ donation. Having worked in transplant centers elsewhere I recognize the importance of such generosity to saving the lives of others. It makes me proud to know our System is focused in this regard and I look forward to continuing this support going forward,” said Paul Walker, CEO of Hoboken University Medical Center.
In a statement issued for the event, Dr. Mark Spektor, CEO of Bayonne Medical Center, said, “Organ donation is vital to prolonging and improving the quality of life for many patients. For the program to be successful, many nurses, physicians, social workers and other professionals must work as a team in very emotional and difficult situations. Bayonne Medical Center and its staff are proud to actively support such an important mission.”
N.J. Sharing Network officials, joined by donor families who thanked hospital staff for their commitment to organ and tissue recovery and the gift of life it gives others, presented the three CEOs with the award.
“Organ donation and transplantation is a complex and rare medical procedure,” said Joseph Roth, president and CEO of N.J. Sharing Network. “Having hospital partners in Hudson County that continuously demonstrates their commitment to fulfill an organ donor’s final wishes gives more hope to the thousands of New Jersey patients who are on the transplant waiting list. N.J. Sharing Network is honored to have such dedicated partners and presents our Circle of Life Award to these institutions as an expression of thanks for all they have done to support organ donation and transplantation.”
Bayonne Medical Center, Christ Hospital and Hoboken University Medical Center have worked closely in recent years with N.J. Sharing Network to honor the decisions of individuals or their families to donate organs and tissue in a caring and compassionate manner, with an end result of a patient receiving a desperately needed transplant.
N.J. Sharing Network continues to advocate on behalf of individuals in need of life-saving and life-enhancing transplants and is a source of comfort for family members who make the courageous decision to donate a loved one’s organs and tissue.
To learn more about organ and tissue donation, contact N.J. Sharing Network at (800) 742-7365 or visit www.njsharingnetwork.org.