One man's fight to save his life: Turn to Tara shines light on need for organ donors across tri-state

More people across the tri-state are said to be waiting for an organ transplant than in almost any other part of Western Hemisphere. 

Tara Rosenblum and Lee Danuff

Feb 14, 2024, 10:24 PM

Updated 69 days ago

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News 12 is shining a spotlight on the need for organ donors across the tri-state on National Donor Day.
More people across the tri-state are said to be waiting for an organ transplant than in almost any other part of Western Hemisphere. 
It's the reason a local family made the decision to Turn to Tara to get the word out about their increasingly desperate medical fight that began when he got COVID in 2021 and then developed into kidney disease.
Clark Pitura spent nearly a quarter of a century fighting to keep New York City's water supply safe and its air clean. The Department of Environmental Protection police detective is fighting an even more urgent battle - the fight for his life.
The Brewster, New York man is dying and in desperate need of a kidney transplant.
To keep him alive, it takes 3 1/2-hour visits three days a week to a dialysis center and hours of pulmonary rehab at Northern Westchester Hospital's Pulmonary Rehab Center at Chappaqua Crossing.
Pitura is also on one of what is considered to be the largest and longest transplant wait lists in America, as New York ranks 49 out 50 when it comes to organ donations.
Only 48% of New Yorkers are registered as donors, which is slightly higher than recent years. It's still far less than the national average of 60%.
 
The Turn To Tara team has spent the past four years digging deeper into the crisis that claims roughly 500 local lives each year, including when the COVID-19 pandemic brought the transplant world to a near standstill.
In the early days of the pandemic, local transplants were down a staggering 90%. 
The latest data obtained by the Turn To Tara team shows things have improved a lot since then but not nearly enough.
Current statistics show many people waiting for a lifesaving organ:
Roughly 7,600 patients in New York
Just under 3,300 in New Jersey
Another 1,100 in Connecticut
It is not uncommon for someone to wait five years or longer across the tri-state area, but most patients like Pitura can't risk traveling out of state to join shorter waiter lists.
"It's just not possible at this point in time, and I just kind of have to grin and bear it and...pray," he says. 
Pitura is now hoping someone who sees his story will consider live organ donation.
"I just...want people to know that...there are a lot of good people out there that need a transplant," he says. "I'm just trying to stay positive. I think it'll happen."


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