The Gift of Life: Newark Beth Israel Medical Center’s Heart Transplant Program is Raising Awareness about Organ Donation

Camacho VAD NBI

I have completed almost 650 heart transplants in my career as a cardiac surgeon. I have flown around the country more times than I can count, traveling everywhere from Wisconsin to Florida to complete these surgeries and stand on the front lines as patients receive the gift of life. But if there is one thing I know, it’s this: It isn’t enough.

Every year in the United States, there are thousands of people in need of a heart transplant. Yet for the past three decades, our country has completed less than 3,500 transplants annually due to the lack of donors. So many people who could be potential donors are not, simply because they are not aware of the need or don’t know the process to register. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem, decreasing the number of available donors and making an already dire situation worse.

This month, as we celebrate National Donate Life month, it is more important than ever that we raise awareness about the life-changing power of organ donation. There is nothing more amazing to me than overseeing a transplant surgery from the moment of procurement, watching the different teams and different surgeons prepare organs for patients in need. It is like conducting an orchestra, a symphony that will provide a new future for not just one individual, but many. A single organ donor can save up to eight lives. When you think about the impact that has on people dying on a waiting list, the choice becomes simple.

I still remember one of my patients, a 28-year-old woman I cared for years ago, who was dying despite our best efforts. The night we told her family that she only had 24 to 48 hours left, we got word that a heart had just become available. She is healthy now, a vocal advocate for organ donation and a bright light who otherwise would not be with us. Whenever I speak with her, I am reminded of how different her story could have been and deeply grateful for the precious gift of her donor.

In a season when many of us have felt powerless against new health threats, signing up to be a donor is a tangible and powerful way to make a difference. It is as simple as clicking a link online. Talk with your family about organ donation, or visit and to learn more.

That little heart on your driver’s license isn’t just a sign – it is an opportunity to change lives.

Margarita Camacho, M.D. is the Surgical Director of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center Heart Transplant Program. Dr. Camacho is one of the nation’s most renowned cardiac surgeons, having completed 648 heart transplants.