Patient Care

Hamburg Man Raises Awareness of Organ Donation

Dec. 18, 2013
Resident awaits new heart at University of Rochester Medical Center
Denise Eckert, R.N., listens to Jim Summers' failing heart as he waits for the gift of life this holiday season.

Jim Summers wishes he was home to hang decorations with his family this year. Instead the Hamburg resident will celebrate the holidays at the University of Rochester Medical Center, where he awaits a heart transplant.

The 48-year-old father of three teenagers suffered a heart attack in June and doctors later identified cardiomyopathy, or weakening of the heart muscle, impeding its ability to pump enough blood through the circulation system. Since then, Summers has faced declining heart health and now, with the season of giving upon us, he needs the ultimate gift of life – a new heart to see his children grow.

“It’s hard to be away from your family for so long,” Summers said. “I’m in this for the long haul and will do what it takes to make it through.”

Heart failure cardiologist Jeffrey Alexis, M.D., met Summers a few months ago, when his heart function was extremely poor. The Heart and Vascular Center care team stabilized his heart and Summers remains hospitalized at URMC’s Strong Memorial Hospital until a heart becomes available.

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.

Summers’ diagnosis has made him very aware of the dire community need for greater participation in organ donation. At URMC, there are 494 people waiting for organs. In New York, there are nearly 11,000 people waiting for organs, more than 132,000 in the country.

“Mr. Summers represents the many patients who are waiting for the gift of life, which can only be provided by donors and their families. He 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