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New Yorkers Kick Off Push For Organ Donation Awareness

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Organ donation awareness kicked off on Tuesday with a big push to help save lives.

As CBS2's Jennifer Mclogan reported, there are five times as many patients waiting for organs than those willing to donate.

But in Hicksville, Jennifer Lentini's broken heart was replaced with Matthew Brannon's.

"We wept over Matthew. I just hugged her and she hugged me and I got to say thank you," said Lentini.

And in Wading River, about three months after signing "yes" to organ donation on his driver's license permit, Thomas Cutinella died on a high school football field.

His mother was able to run the Tunnel to Towers 5K alongside the recipient of her son's heart.

But success stories like those are lacking, McLogan reported.

"New York is dying. We are number 50 our of 50 states," said one woman.

It's an embarrassing statistic, according to doctors, organ donors and some of New York's 10,000 families of loved ones fighting to hang on until a match can be found.

"Any religion would identify organ donation as a noble cause," said Dr. Frank Darras, Stony Brook University's transplant director. "There are just misconceptions."

Dr. Darras said it's untrue that bodies will be desecrated or there's too much red tape.

Yet there are other obstacles. New York is the opposite of most other states in the country where donation is automatic.

"You have to opt out instead of opt in to become an organ donor," said Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, dean of medicine at Stony Brook University.

The opt-in signature is required every eight years, something political leaders want changed, McLogan reported.

So do grateful recipients like Linda Morales.

"I woke up May 14, 1989, Mother's Day morning. From the transplant they said the kidney kicked in on the table," she said.

In New York, someone dies every 18 hours while waiting for an organ transplant. Signing up for organ donation takes just seconds.

And according to one non-profit, one organ donor can save up to eight lives.

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