A police hero five times over: Murdered Detective Wilbert Mora lives on through donated organs
By Leonard Achan
One year ago today, Jan. 25, 2022, NYPD Detective Wilbert Mora became an Organ Donor Hero. Four days earlier, he and his partner Detective Jason Rivera were ambushed and fatally shot by a gunman while responding to a distress call in Harlem. Detective Mora’s family, knowing his wishes, made the supremely compassionate gift of donating his organs to save the lives of five people waiting for transplants. Those recipients were given a second chance at life because Wilbert Mora shared his heart, liver, pancreas, and both kidneys.
Amid a dark tragedy, the Mora family’s act of generosity was a ray of sunshine that touched New Yorkers, helping them to recognize the beauty of saving lives through organ donation. Over these past 12 months, Detective Mora’s legacy of compassion has grown beyond the heroic deeds of sacrificing his life to protect others and donating life upon his death.
His life-giving donations, along with those of more than 470 other New Yorkers who chose to save lives in 2022, have now multiplied many times over by inspiring others to become Organ and Tissue Donors. As a result, LiveOnNY, the federally-designated organ procurement organization that works with donor families, donor hospitals, and transplant centers to arrange organ and tissue donations in the greater New York region, saved more lives than ever before through a record 1,300 organs transplanted in 2022, a 30% increase from the prior year.
Tissue donations, which include corneas for those who are losing their sight, heart valves for those suffering from cardiac defects, and arteries to facilitate dialysis for those waiting for a kidney transplant, increased by 28%.
When not directed to a relative or friend, these 1,300 gifts of life became available first to the sickest in need and to compatible matches of patients on the organ transplant waiting list, whether in New York or another state. In fact, nearly half of the organs gifted by New Yorkers last year saved lives of people in other states. It matters not whether the recipients are wealthy or poor, nor how they vote. Every human life is precious and deserving of an opportunity to be rescued.
Organ transplants are saving more lives than ever. In fact, last year U.S. surgeons completed the one millionth organ transplant. Today, more than 90% of transplants are successful because of highly effective immunosuppressant medicines that allow transplant physicians to integrate a new organ with a recipient’s immune system to prevent rejection. Transplants of kidneys, the organ in greatest demand, are especially effective, with a better than 95% patient survival rate.
But, as much success as there has been over the past year, the need for organ donations remains great. More than 8,000 people in New York State are currently on the organ transplant waitlist and more than 100,000 are waiting across the nation, hoping that a donor will save their lives. Our work will not be done until we reach a zero-patient waiting list.
Misconceptions about organ and tissue donation are fading as the public has gained inspiration from Detective Mora, as well as other organ and tissue donors like New York Firefighters Jesse Gerhard and William Moon who, after suffering a fatal accident last month, also donated his organs to save five lives.
These are the facts: Doctors are obligated to do all they can to save a person’s life, regardless of whether or not the patient is an organ donor. Organ donors are treated with the utmost care and respect, and, as a result, they do have open casket funerals. All major religions support organ donation as a great charitable and humanitarian act. There is no age limit — people in their 80s, and as old as 95, have successfully donated organs.
Anyone can be an organ donor hero. This path to heroism, upon our passing, requires only that we be compassionate, generous, and willing to “live on” by helping others who desperately need an organ transplant to survive. You can sign up at the state’s Donate Life Registry or by checking the box on your driver’s license renewal to say “yes” to organ donation.
Each organ donor can save up to eight lives through the donation of kidneys, a heart, pancreas, liver, intestine, and lungs. And, through donation of tissue and cornea, a donor can also restore a full life to as many as 75 people.
Our friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors are counting on us. So, please help us to continue growing Detective Mora’s great legacy of compassion and love by committing to give the greatest gift imaginable — the gift of life to a fellow human being.