Syracuse Woman Raises Awareness of Joining Organ Donor Registry

Resident Waits for New Heart at Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital

December 05, 2011

Carol Kankoski misses the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, the music and the decorations. Tethered to monitors and machines during this season of giving, the Syracuse-area woman awaits the ultimate gift – a heart – to overcome heart failure, which has her hospitalized at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Strong Memorial Hospital.

Kankoski suffers from cardiomyopathy, or weakening of the heart muscle, impeding its ability to pump enough blood through the circulation system. Heart failure expert Eugene Storozynsky, M.D., Ph.D., said the “insidious course” of her disease was impacting other organs, like her kidneys, which had been able to compensate for the poor circulation.

The 64-year-old retired daycare provider has been hospitalized since Oct. 18, when Storozynsky identified the significant deterioration of her heart and it was time to add her to the waiting list for the new organ, immediately.

“I thought I was coming for a check-up and I ended up staying here indefinitely,” said Kankoski, the mother of two daughter, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. “I know it’s going to take time for this and I’m lucky to be here getting the care I need.”

URMC’s Program in Heart Failure and Transplantation is the only comprehensive heart failure and transplant service in upstate New York. It is a national leader in research efforts to further the treatment of heart failure and return patients that suffer from heart failure to healthy and productive lives.

Kankoski’s diagnosis has made her very aware of the dire community need for greater participation in organ donation.

In New York, there are 10,000 people waiting for organs, more than 112,000 in the country.

“Mrs. Kankoski represents the many patients who are waiting for the gift of life, which can only be provided by donors and their families. She is an example of why we encourage everyone to have a discussion with their families to ensure their wishes are known,” said Rob Kochik, executive director of the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network, the organ procurement organization affiliated with the University of Rochester Medical Center and SUNY Upstate Medical University.

FLDRN coordinates organ donation in 20 counties with a population of 2.4 million and serving 38 hospitals in the Finger Lakes region, central and northern New York.

“When people make their own personal decision and inform their family, many people are relieved of the burden of making that decision and donors are ensured their wishes will be carried out,” Kochik said. To register as an organ donor, go to www.donorrecovery.org.

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