NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - Taylor Clarke was only 19 when she learned her heart was failing. She spent five months in the hospital on a mechanical pump waiting for a transplant.
"I started to show stroke-like symptoms and I was rushed to the hospital and then they figured out it was my heart," Clarke said. "My whole life had to take a pause. I had to get out of school, start all over. I was literally fighting for my life."
She has yet to reach out to the donor's family but proudly wears her necklace and shows off her scar. Since her surgery three years ago, she has been on a mission of trying register as many people as possible so that the nearly 10,000 New Yorkers on the waitlist can have a second chance at life, just like she did.
"When it comes to organ donation, everyone gets a little weird," Clarke said. "If we can just break that and get the message out today that it's something so positive then I'll feel like I did my part."
Assistant Professor Christine Zammit of Physician Assistant Studies at Hofstra University donated her kidney to her sister, who has cystic fibrosis.
"People think that you're going to be left to die in the street if someone sees that you're an organ donor—it couldn't be further from the truth," Zammit said. "The patient is always the first priority. The organ donation comes after the fact."
Every 18 hours a New Yorker dies waiting for a lifesaving transplant, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. One of the main reasons is that only 33 percent of people in the state are registered organ donors.
In 2017, more than 500 New Yorkers were removed from the waiting list because they either died or become too ill for a transplant. Organs from one donor can save the lives of up to eight people.