MANHASSET, NY – On December 11, perfect strangers, Tiffany Tung and Dawn Bates, met for the first time and declared themselves “sisters for life” before an audience of more than 20 Mineola High School students. Ms. Tung, recipient of a life-saving kidney transplant at the North Shore University Hospital Transplant Center met her donor, Ms. Bates, while students, who had shadowed kidney doctors, surgeons and nurses as part of the health system’s SPARK Challenge, witnessed the meeting and the real-life impact organ donation can have.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
“People who donate and receive kidneys are normal people,” said Ernesto Molmenti, MD, surgical director of the Transplant Center. “They work, they have families. When you donate, you allow people in need to return to their lives. It’s a true gift of life, and these people are to be admired.”
For Ms. Tung of Westbury, NY, this was her second kidney transplant. She had been living with kidney failure since turning 15. “I know that I am a very lucky person,” she told the audience. “I can’t even find the words to describe my feelings about the entire process and meeting the woman who has saved my life.”
Ms Bates, who lives in Deer Park, NY, explained that she had originally approached the transplant center to discover the possibility of being a donor for one of her relatives. When the doctors told her she was incompatible with her relative, Dawn was faced with a decision.
“I was told that I might be a match for someone else through a complex chain of transplants known as a swap,” she said. “Although I couldn’t give help my relative, there was someone else who could benefit from my kidney. So, I decided to go forward. Just because I hit a brick wall doesn’t mean there has to be a brick wall for someone else.”
Nicole Ali, MD, medical director of the transplant center, said it was her hope that the students would be so inspired by witnessing the meeting of a donor and a recipient that they would be moved to take action. “These young people at the point of applying for their drivers’ licenses,” she said. “I truly hope that this new level of understanding will encourage them to consider organ donation and sign the back of their licenses.”
The event struck a chord with the young people in attendance. As one student later said, “Being able to witness this in person has made a lasting impact on my life.”
About North Shore-LIJ Health System -- North Shore-LIJ is changing its name to Northwell Health in January 2016.
One of the nation's largest health systems, the health system delivers world-class clinical care throughout the New York metropolitan area, pioneering research at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, a visionary approach to medical education highlighted by the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, and healthcare coverage to individuals, families and businesses through the CareConnect Insurance Co. Inc. The health system cares for people at every stage of life at 21 hospitals and about 450 outpatient physician practices throughout the region. The health system’s owned hospitals and long-term care facilities house more than 6,600 beds, employ more than 15,000 nurses and have affiliations with nearly 13,600 physicians. With a workforce of more than 61,000, the health system is the largest private employer in New York State. For more information, go to www.northshorelij.com