Heart transplant recipient and Basking Ridge resident Mark Reagan will be one of 32 organ recipients riding on the Donate Life float at the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, California on New Year's Day, in an effort to raise awareness of the need for organ donations.
The parade begins at 8 a.m. Pacific time, and is scheduled to be broadcast live and in its entirety starting at 10:58 a.m. eastern time on HGTV on cable, according to information on the HGTV website.
Reagan received his heart transplant at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in 2003, and returned to the hospital on Dec. 27 to meet with many of the people who make organ transplant a reality in New Jersey.
Transplant physicians, administrators and staff of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center gathered with Reagan and officials from NJ Sharing Network to celebrate.
While at the medical center, Reagan also visited patients awaiting heart transplants at the Harvey and Georgina Weinstein National Heart Transplant Center. The patients include a 22-year-old Summit resident and a Pine Beach father of two teenagers waiting for a life-saving transplant.
Reagan received his transplant after battling chronic heart failure for eight years. Since then, he has dedicated himself to educating others about organ donation. Speaking to a group of other heart transplant recipients and several patients who are awaiting transplant, Reagan paid tribute to the transplant team at Newark Beth Israel and praised all the donor families who give the ultimate gift of life in the midst of their own grief.
He described his emotional five-month wait for a heart transplant and recalled his feelings when he learned that a donor heart had been found. “It is the lucky moment when you learn you are going to dance,” said Mr. Reagan. In New Jersey, more than 5000 people await lifesaving organs, according to information from Beth Israel.
Reagan said he wanted to provide words of hope to hospitalized patients before he leaves to ride on the Donate Life float.
Reagan has since visited the family of his 18-year-old donor, who died in a car accident. The families have remained close and will meet again in California during the parade.
Other organ recipients will ride on the float, which also will include 71 ‘floragraphs,’ which use herbs, seeds and flowers to depict organ donors. The aim is to honor the donors and bring awareness to organ donation.
According to Elisse Glennon, Executive Director of the NJ Sharing Network Foundation, the theme of the 2013 Donate Life float is Journeys of the Heart. Portraits of organ donors will be made out of flowers to adorn the float. “For many donor families, this is a unique opportunity to see their loved one shine before a worldwide audience and to gain special recognition for their gifts of life and hope."
Glennon added, "For transplant recipients like Mark, it is a once-in-a-lifetime moment to publicly thank their donor family for the most precious gift ever. The NJ Sharing Network Foundation is proud to sponsor Mark’s participation in the Rose Parade and we look forward to seeing him ride the float on New Year’s Day.
The heart transplant program at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center is the third largest in the nation and has been led for more than 20 years by Mark J. Zucker, MD, JD.
“We have performed 68 heart transplants this year—another record for Newark Beth Israel,” Dr. Zucker said prior to Reagan's visit. “We dream big here at Newark Beth and we are proud to be improving the quality care for people with heart failure in New Jersey and across the U.S.”
“We are inspired by the skills and dedication of every member of the team that makes organ transplant possible,” said Darrell Terry, Chief Operating Officer at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “Newark Beth Israel is proud to work closely with our partners at the NJ Sharing Network to maximize the potential of each precious gift a life.”
More than 725 heart transplants have been performed at Newark Beth Israel since New Jersey’s first was performed there in 1986. Earlier this year, The Harvey and Georgina Weinstein National Heart Transplant Center was established at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.
According to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, which maintains the national database of transplant statistics and supports the scientific and clinical evaluation of organ transplantation, both the heart and lung transplant programs at Newark Beth Israel have consistently achieved patient survival rates that meet or exceed national benchmarks, according to information from the medical center. For the last two years, the heart and lung Transplant Programs were awarded the bronze level by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Donation and Transplant Community of Practice, the medical center said.
In addition to the most advanced medical and surgical treatments, patients have access to clinical trials of breakthrough medications and therapies. For more than 20 years, the heart transplant program has offered the latest generation of ventricular assist devices and is now participating in research in an innovative method for preserving donor organs as well as cardiac stem cell research that may someday help the heart heal itself, according to information from the medical center.
The Harvey and Georgina Weinstein National Heart Transplant Center provides the evaluation, advanced treatment and follow-up care for people across the region that choose the transplant option, according to the medical center.