Former Erie County executive in need of kidney transplant, announces push for organ donation

Local News

Former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra says he will not be making a bid for the State Assembly at least not right now. He’s facing a new health battle.

The longtime political figure says he found out about his kidney failure around Christmas. He tells News 4 it’s a genetic kidney disease, one that is affecting his mom, cousin and other family members. Giambra says his doctor told him he’s in need of a kidney transplant.

This isn’t his first health battle, he says he fought Stage 4 throat cancer when he was first sworn in as Erie County Executive about 20 years ago.

He says he’s turning this current diagnosis into a new direction.

“These are things you obviously have no control over. I have to deal with it, I’m prepared to deal with it and I’m prepared to use my knowledge of public advocacy to get the laws changed to allow for more organ donation than is taking place right now,” said Joel Giambra in a phone interview with News 4 on Tuesday.

Giambra says he’s now taking his fight to Washington with the ‘Opt Out’ legislation. He says this bill would change the way organ donors are signed up, where everyone would be an organ donor and those who wish not to be would have to opt out. He says there are currently too many people on a transplant list and not enough organs.

Giambra says he’s currently going through the process of getting on a transplant list at ECMC. He says depending on when he’s able to get through his current health issues, he wants to get back into politics.

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