Eugene “Gino” Ferrua, administrative manager for the Novato DMV, has been encouraging people to register to become organ and tissue donors on behalf of his 61-year-old brother, who is on a waiting list for a kidney transplant.
In April, Novato Mayor Madeline Kellner read a city proclamation for the DMV/National Donate Life California Month that also encouraged people to register, and Ferrua spoke about the issue before the Novato City Council.
Ferrua's brother, Michael, is battling each day for another day of life, subjecting his body to regular connections to a dialysis machine to clear out the toxins his own kidneys cannot.
“He’s a fighter,” Gino Ferrua says of his 61-year-old sibling, who lives in Palos Verdes. “Three times a week, he gets up at 4 a.m. to get his dialysis at 6 a.m. He takes a rest after that, and then starts his work day. He’s been doing that for three years.”
Ferrua’s brother’s health problems stem from diabetes, which he has been battling since his 40s. With his own kidneys now failing, their first hope was to find other family members close enough to Michael’s blood and tissue type to be able to donate a kidney.
So far, only one person is a match but that person is trying to get “healthy enough” to donate.
Now Michael is on the national waiting list for a kidney transplant. This means that his long-term ability to stay alive is more and more dependent on how many people will agree each year to become an organ donor and increase the number of kidneys available for transplant.
The number of people waiting for a kidney transplant nationally stands at more than 70,000. The average wait time until a kidney becomes available can be five to seven years.
Ferrua’s employer, the California DMV, has partnered with organ donation advocates in an effort to sign up people to become donors since 2005. Anytime someone gets a drivers license or state ID card, or renews one, they are asked if they would like to sign up on the Donate LIFE California Organ and Tissue Donor Registry.
Anyone at anytime can sign up as a donor too by going to www.donateLIFEcalifornia.org orwww.doneVIDAcalifornia.org and sign up.
Through its acknowledgement of April as “DMV/Donate Life California Month” the City of Novato noted that 8 million Californians are on the registry now, but that more people need help. According to the agency that promotes organ donation in the area, the California Transplant Donor Network, more than 20,000 people in California are on waiting list for a new heart, lung, kidney or other organs.
Nationally, a name goes on the transplant list every 90 minutes. Each day, 18 names come off, specifically because they died without ever receiving a life-saving organ.
“People waiting for an organ transplant are not quitters," Gino Ferrua said. "They are still pushing through their illness. We should look on them as heroes who want to get better and be productive.
"But to become heroes, they need someone who will care enough to choose to donate. “There’s someone out there who can really make a difference in my brother’s life or someone else who really needs it.”