Priest Raises Awareness as Organ Donations Spike in New York Following First Responder Deaths

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Faith, Family, FDNY, Inspiration, Media, NYPD, Organ, Organ Donation, Queens, NY

By Jessica Easthope

Father Jim Cunningham is proof that one person’s selfless generosity can save a life. For Father Jim, that person is one of his best friends: Firefighter Pat Nash.

“We’re putting ourselves in harm’s way, most of the time, for people we don’t know,” said Pat, “and this was a controlled environment with some risk involved and it was for a friend.”

Back in 2016, Fr. Jim was shocked to learn he had late stage kidney disease. One day he was healthy, the next day, doctors were telling him he needed a transplant – and fast. Pat got tested immediately.

“I wasn’t hesitant,” Pat said, “I just felt like it was a no brainer.”

“He just never looked back, never hesitated and became a great example to other people of how important it is to be a living donor,” said Fr. Jim, “how you can change and save someone’s life.”

Six years later, both men are thriving and so are organ donations.

Following the recent deaths of NYPD Police Officer Wilbert Mora and FDNY Firefighter Jesse Gerhard, both of whom were organ donors with LiveOnNY, the organization is seeing a spike in calls and registrations.

“His and his family’s heroic actions have inspired a movement across the New York community to embrace the gift of life and say yes to saving the lives of those in need,” said LiveOnNY CEO Leonard Achan.

And New York is in desperate need of a movement like this one.

There are more than 8,000 New Yorkers waiting for organs. Nationally, patients wait for life saving organs for one to two years. In New York, they wait three to five years.

“So many people are waiting for transplants,” said Fr. Jim. “We have to think about what we can do to help other people and are we ready to never count the cost.”

Now the two are raising awareness together – Pat as a living donor with no regrets and Fr. Jim as a recipient who was given a second chance.

“As far as the kidneys go, you have two, you only need one,” Pat joked.

“I wish there were more people like Pat Nash in the world who wouldn’t hesitate,” said Fr. Jim.

Just like the doctors said six years ago – for two people who are not related, they’re an unusually good match.