Suffolk officers honored after flying Riverhead man for heart transplant

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A Riverhead man is thanking Suffolk's aviation unit for helping him get to the hospital in time for a heart transplant.

In 2016, Ed Schaefer says it was during rush hour when he got the call that a heart was available at Westchester Medical Center. He says the traffic would have made the drive risky or even impossible for him to get there within the required two hours.

Schaefer says he called Suffolk police to ask if they would be able to fly him there and was relieved when the officers responded.

The officers of Suffolk's aviation unit flew him from Riverhead to Westchester Medical Center in 30 minutes.

Schaefer thanked Suffolk police and flight medic Erin Carey in person Monday as they were honored for their efforts.

Schaefer says he was also fortunate enough to meet his donor's mother. He says, "My donor's mom came over and wanted to hear her son's heartbeat.  She put her head on his heart on my chest and listened.  That box of tissues emptied real quick that day.”

Schaefer adds that the day of his transplant will always be bittersweet. "Every anniversary of my heart is also the anniversary of his death.  I will probably cry that day just as much as I'll smile,” he says.

He says the transplant was a success and he is able to live a normal life. But he also says he's disappointed that New York ranks last in the country of registered organ donors.

"New Yorkers are saying they're interested in organ donation, yet there's only 35% of us who are signed up,” he says.

Schaefer was put on the top of the donor list for a heart after suffering two heart attacks in 2015. 

Highway patrol officers Lt. Peter Reilly and Officer Steven Turner were also recognized for another successful organ transplant.

In June, the nonprofit LiveOnNY called Lt. Reilly for help getting a liver from Stony Brook University to Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan. Officer Turner secured the liver in a large cooler in his cruiser and drove across Long Island on the LIE with lights and sirens.

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