April is National Donate Life Month

— Superintendent Richard N. Johns of the Liverpool school district issued an open letter to teachers, students, parents and community members on March 26 announcing his leave, just months before he was due to retire.

Johns’ departure comes for a good reason: he needs a new heart.

“If it was of my own choosing, I would certainly perform my job for many more years, however, factors have emerged which will not allow me to do so,” Johns said in his letter. “I am currently working with a medical team at Strong Hospital to explore receiving a new heart.”

Johns is one of about 800 patients in the Central New York region waiting to receive organ transplants.

The month of April is National Donate Life Month. Hospitals across the country promote awareness and education, working to expand the organ donation registry.

According to a 2012 U.S. census report on behalf of the New York State Department of Health, 19 percent of New Yorkers age 18 and up are registered organ donors. The national average is 43 percent.

“There are not a lot of public announcements about organ donation in New York, which is why we try to raise awareness in our area,” said Kate Mitchell, head of the Donate Life campaign at Upstate Hospital. “It’s an awareness issue, but we’re making progress.”

To that end, the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network hosted a new program titled “Giving and Receiving the Gift of Life:The Full Circle of Caring” at Strong Memorial Hospital Friday, April 19.

“We haven’t done an event quite like this before,” said Rob Kochik of Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network. “We invited donor families and their recipients — linking doctors and nurses and all of the different specialties that help us care for the donors and families along with all the physicians and nurses that take care of recipients.”

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