Retired Ithaca teacher’s search for new heart sheds light on organ demand

A retired Ithaca teacher made headlines last week after his search for a new heart led to a personal campaign to raise awareness for organ donation.

Fred Knewstub taught math and special education at DewittMiddle School for 30 years before being diagnosed with cardio myopathy. He’s been awaiting a heart transplant at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Strong Memorial Hospital since mid-June. He made headlines last week after he began advocating for organ donation awareness.

“I really wasn’t that cognizant of the issue that surrounds organ donation until I was a patient here and saw the impact it had on people’s lives, and the positive outcome for both the patient and the patient’s family,” Knewstub said.

Executive Director of the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network Rob Kochik says Knewstub’s story highlights the roughly 10,000 New Yorkers who are awaiting on a transplant.

New York has one of the lowest donor registration rates in the country, but Kochik says the registration rate has risen steadily in the past 5 years.

“There’s great progress, but we think that it’s not just fast enough, and so that’s why there’s more initiatives going on to try and make it easier for people to enroll,” Kochik said.

Kochik encourages people to learn the facts about organ donation, and consider giving “the gift of life.”

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