'Lauren's Law' aims to increase organ donor numbers in New York

September 27, 2013 2:58:43 PM PDT
New York ranks poorly when it comes to people signing up to be organ donors. And many people die as a result. If you've never given much thought about giving the gift of life, maybe now you will, all because of the can-do spirit of a teen who wants to help others.

Thirteen-year-old Lauren Shields is quite a fighter. The Rockland County teen underwent a heart transplant four years ago. But before the transplant, her own heart quickly started to fail.

"Her systems were starting to shut down, and while she was waiting for her heart, they needed to put her on life support," Lauren's mom, Jeanne Shields, said.

"I really don't want anyone to wait like I did, because so many people die each day waiting for a transplant," Lauren said.

So she turned her fight for her life into a mission to help others.

Lauren became the public face for organ donation in New York, successfully lobbying for an organ donor bill sponsored by state Senator David Carlucci.

"I had actually spoken to Senator Carlucci at one of my speeches, and said, 'What can I do? What can I do to help?'" Lauren said.

Now, on October 3, Lauren's Law will go into effect.

It will make it mandatory to answer the organ donor question on the DMV form or website when applying or renewing a driver's license.

It can be easily said New York is in an organ donation crisis, ranking 47th nationally in organ donations.

Just as concerning, only 21% of adult New Yorkers are registered, compared to 45% nationally.

Helen Irving is the CEO of the New York Organ Donor Network, which works to bring greater awareness to the cause. She says Lauren's Law is a good start.

"An ongoing work we still need to do, it won't be a quick fix, it won't solve everything, but it's absolutely a step in the right direction," Irving said.

And Lauren helped get them there.

And the law is sure to give many sick people a better chance at receiving the gift of life.

"I'm back to living my life as a kid again, swimming, going to school, being with my friends," Lauren said.