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Leonard Petruska of Hamilton, NJ, Celebrates the 22-Year Anniversary of His Life-Saving Liver Transplant

Leonard Petruska, 82, is taking time to reflect on the gift of life and the miracle of organ and tissue donation and transplantation as he celebrates 22 years since his life-saving liver transplant. Over the years, Leonard has also made it a priority to support donation and transplantation and by sharing his story with others, Leonard has encouraged more people to register as organ and tissue donors.

The following was written by Leonard to detail his liver transplant journey and highlight life’s precious moments made possible thanks to the gift of life.

In 1998, my life was great. I was the Eastern Regional Sales Manager for Nash Engineering, and my wife, Arlene, was a vice president of a large advertising company. We were proud that our three children, Alayne, Lenore, and Beth had graduated college and were gainfully employed. We were preparing to enjoy the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

On the Thursday before the holiday weekend, while out doing errands, I suddenly felt sick to my stomach and was bringing up blood. I left my car at the store, got a ride home and rested instead of going to the hospital. Unbeknownst to me, my daughter Beth spoke with my doctor who called me and ordered me to the hospital. It was soon discovered that I had a bleed in my liver and my pancreas failed. I was put into a drug induced coma. Thirteen days later, I woke up in the CCU and was very confused.

Several months later, I was told to get my affairs in order because I had only about 12 months to live. I desperately needed a liver transplant and was added to the transplant waiting list. I attended transplant support groups to help me cope with a wide range of emotions, including a feeling of guilt that another person would have to die for me to receive the gift of life.

During the Memorial Day weekend in 2000, Thomas Sozzi, a local business owner and amateur drag race car driver, was on his way home from parking his business truck when he was hit head-on by a school bus filled with school children and was airlifted to the trauma center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in critical condition. Thomas and his wife, Tracey, had a close friend who died awaiting a kidney transplant, so they were aware of the importance of donation. Tracey recalled Thomas saying if something ever happened to him, he would want his organs donated so others might live.

The following months were filled with recovery and rehabilitation. I was incredibly grateful for being given a second chance at life. Life took on a new meaning. I was more in love with my family and friends. Reading and music took on new importance. Everything about everything took on new dimensions and appreciation.

I felt compelled to write my donor family with the support of the NJ Sharing Network team. I remember that I wanted to make sure they received my letter just before Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving Day, Tracey called me and was happy to hear from me. We ended our conversation making plans for our families to meet the day after Christmas and we did – Arlene and I, our three daughters, and two grandchildren. We all remain in close contact and Thomas and his family will always be in our hearts and prayers.

A few years later, Tracey and I teamed up to do a volunteer presentation for NJ Sharing Network at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. She brought me to their trauma unit to do a little ‘show and tell’ for the staff so they could see me in person. Tracey showed them the miracle of organ donation and transplantation.

In all these years since my life-saving transplant, it is easy to forget my wait for this transplant until bedtime when I thank God and pray for Thomas and Tracey Sozzi, and their children Thomas, Nicole and Anthony.

Apart from general organ transplant protocol, I have led quite a normal life. I have seen my first daughter Alayne Morena raise Dan and Gabrielle as a single mom. I have seen Dan start a new company and marry Julie who is going to make me a great grandfather soon. Gabrielle became an NICU nurse and is in a relationship with Garrett. Another daughter Lenore prospered in large corporations spending several assignments in India. And to see my daughter Beth get married to Bob Pickell and raise Jack as well as twins, Cooper and Shane. And lastly, to spend more life with my love, my wife of 58 years, Arlene.

It was especially exciting for me to see Tracey get married to Michael Wilson and have a son, Michael. And every day, I remember that all these precious moments were made possible thanks to the gift of life.

(Left-to-Right) Arlene Petruska, Tracey Sozzi Wilson, and Leonard Petruska

Please register today as an organ and tissue donor. 💚💙

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NJ Sharing Network named a Best Place To Work in New Jersey for fifth consecutive year!

We are so proud and honored to be recognized by NJBIZ as one of the Best Places to Work in New Jersey for the fifth consecutive year!

As we celebrate 35 years of saving lives through organ and tissue donation, we give thanks to our staff whose dedication and compassion make our organization such a special place and our community of supporters for helping to make our life-saving mission possible. 💚💙

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Jeffrey A. Miskoff, DO, of Toms River appointed as Medical Director Supporting Statewide Organ and Tissue Donation Efforts

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Jeffrey A. Miskoff, DO, of Toms River, to the role of full-time Medical Director. Dr. Miskoff will oversee clinical management of potential organ and tissue donors and lead education efforts at donor hospitals.

“Dr. Miskoff is an experienced and enthusiastic healthcare leader who adds extensive administrative and clinical experience to our dedicated team,” said Carolyn M. Welsh, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of NJ Sharing Network. “He is a welcome addition to our NJ Sharing Network family joining Dr. John Radomski, who has served as Medical Director since 2005 and will continue in a part-time role focused on transplant center processes and surgical procedures. We look forward to working collaboratively to reach new heights in saving lives through organ and tissue donation.”

Dr. Miskoff specializes in Critical Care Medicine, Pulmonary Medicine, and Sleep Medicine. He currently serves as an assistant professor at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine and a clinical instructor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

“I am honored to be a part of NJ Sharing Network’s mission to give hope for those waiting for a life-saving transplant,” said Dr. Miskoff. “I look forward to collaborating with our clinical team and healthcare partners to lead us to new heights in organ and tissue donation and transplantation.”

Dr. Miskoff was a Senior Partner at Shore Pulmonary, P.A. for 17 years. He also served as Chief of Pulmonary Medicine at Hackensack Meridian Health Jersey Shore University Medical Center for 10 years. Dr. Miskoff received his medical degree from Kansas City University. He completed his residency at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and Fellowship at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

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35 Years of Saving Lives

35 years ago, NJ Sharing Network was established with nine employees dedicated to our life-saving mission. Our team has grown to over 200 compassionate staff members, but our mission remains the same: saving and enhancing lives through organ and tissue donation and honoring our donors and their families for their generous gift of life.

Thank you to our hospital partners, volunteers, advocates and members of our donation community for 35 years of support. We couldn’t do what we do without you.

Read more about our 35 years of saving and enhancing lives through organ and tissue donation.

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It’s more than a 5K, it’s a Celebration of Life!

Join us on Sunday, June 5 in New Providence for our 5K Celebration of Life! Learn more at www.SharingNetworkFoundation/5K.

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Volunteers Crochet and Knit Shawls and Blankets to Show Love and Support for NJ Organ and Tissue Donor Families

National Volunteer Week was an opportunity to thank all volunteers who dedicate their time and talent to help others. Locally, dozens of volunteers from throughout New Jersey recently crocheted and knitted over 900 shawls and blankets to express love and support for families of deceased organ and tissue donors. Their caring efforts are part of NJ Sharing Network’s Wrapped in Love Program.

A team of volunteers came together at NJ Sharing Network’s headquarters in New Providence to package the donations and add personalized messages of support before distributing to organ and tissue donor families. Pictured at the ‘packaging meeting’ are local volunteers Adlinna Liang; Marilyn Esnes; Divya Tellakula; Grace Wamsteker; Janet Vigeland; Arlene Kaplan; Lisa Colasurdo, Coordinator for NJ Sharing Network’s Wrapped in Love Program; Janet Crowe; Noreen Reilly; Dede Duffy; Nancy Michael; Cathy Rooney; and Carol Kessler.

Marilyn Esnes of Berkeley Heights is a NJ Sharing Network Wrapped in Love volunteer who understands the positive impact a handmade shawl or blanket can bring to donor families.

“As the caregiver of a lung transplant recipient, my husband, I understand the difficult decision a loved one must make to give the gift of life to others,” said Esnes. “At the time I was sitting in the waiting room at the hospital for my husband’s life-saving transplant, I kept thinking of my husband and praying for the medical staff but also for the donor family. While I was very worried and scared, I thought of the family who made that decision to donate organs and what they were going through. My heart ached for them and what they must have been going through. I was so appreciative of their generosity and love. When I learned of NJ Sharing Network’s Wrapped in Love Program, I volunteered right away to help alleviate someone’s pain.”

Carolyn Welsh, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of NJ Sharing Network, is inspired by the overwhelming expressions of support of NJ Sharing Network’s volunteers.

“We applaud the compassionate efforts of our Wrapped in Love volunteers who selflessly offer their time and talent to support donor families,” said Welsh. “Our volunteers continue to provide comfort to families after suffering the loss of a loved one when it is needed most.”

NJ Sharing Network received the following messages from local families of deceased organ donors who received Wrapped in Love shawls and blankets:

Thank you for the beautifully handmade wrap that was crafted for me. It is a precious reminder of the gift of life that my son was able to give. We miss him dearly but find comfort in knowing that his gift lives on in others. We do appreciate your kindness.”

“Dropping a note to thank you for the beautiful handmade shawl. My husband passed away two years ago and every day I think of him as it was so unexpected. I was glad he was able to give the gift of sight to two people. My shawl will give me peace and comfort when I am wrapped in love. It was so very thoughtful of your organization.”

“Thank you for the beautifully crocheted lap blanket sent to me in honor of my husband’s ultimate generosity upon his death. He was an amazing man that I was blessed to share my life with, he loved everyone, and his heart overflowed. God bless you all.”

For more information about NJ Sharing Network’s Wrapped in Love Program, please call 908-516-5687 or email

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Joyce McMullen of Milltown reflects on her connection to organ donation and transplantation.

Joyce McMullen is truly a fighter and survivor. It was 25 years ago when Joyce received a successful kidney transplant that saved her life after struggling for many years with serious health concerns.

“My kidney transplant gave our family a whole new outlook on what a normal life could be,” said Joyce. “I was able to be a wife and mother who felt energetic and healthy. Thanks to my kidney donor, I was able to be a part of my daughter Kristen’s entire childhood. I watched her graduate with a master’s degree and go on to a successful career.”

While Joyce’s transplanted kidney still has some limited function, she is currently on dialysis and awaiting another kidney transplant. Her past health challenges have given her strength and hope for a better tomorrow.

“I have never taken life for granted, and I am forever grateful of the support of my husband, Michael, and our daughter,” said Joyce. “I continue to pray and stay positive that I will see more sunsets and be able to spend more time with my family and friends.”

Joyce also finds inspiration and comfort in some of her favorite song lyrics from The Rolling Stones:

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime
You’ll find
You get what you need

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Old Tappan’s Bob Scozzafava Celebrates First Anniversary of His Life-Saving Liver Transplant

Bob Scozzafava, 65, is taking time to reflect on the gift of life and the miracle of organ and tissue donation and transplantation as he celebrates the one-year anniversary of his life-saving liver transplant.

“Every day is a blessing thanks to the generosity of my organ donor hero,” said Bob, who received a successful liver transplant on February 28, 2021. “My health had reached a point where doctors told me ‘if you don’t get a transplant, you are going to die.’ Today, I feel great, and I am enjoying every moment with my family and loved ones.”

Bob and his wife Valerie celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in November. Their son Nicholas, 30, and daughter Julia, 27, are thrilled to see their father full of energy and living life to its fullest. The close-knit family, along with about 150 of their friends, came together for Nicholas’ wedding last May, just over two months after Bob’s transplant surgery.

“I really enjoyed dancing up a storm at the wedding,” said Bob. “And I am proud to say that I have powerwalked over 300 miles during my first year post-transplant.”

Bob has also made a priority to serve as a volunteer for NJ Sharing Network, the nonprofit organization responsible for the recovery and placement of donated organs and tissue for the nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents waiting for a transplant.

“My goal is to share my story with others to get more people to register as donors and also help boost the morale of those on the waiting list for transplant,” said Bob. “Volunteering for NJ Sharing Network is also another way for me to honor the memory of my donor hero.”

Bob’s Transplant Journey
Bob’s serious health issues began in 2018 when an endoscopy found varices in his esophagus. In September 2018, further tests indicated that Bob had cirrhosis of the liver caused by a fatty liver (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis). As his health declined, he was added to liver transplant lists in the Northeast in June 2019 and later to transplant lists in Florida.

“In addition to my family, I am thankful that I participated in support group discussions on Zoom with transplant recipients and others on the waiting list,” said Bob. “Talking regularly with my mentor inspired me to stay strong.”

On February 27, 2021, Bob and Valerie were at their Florida apartment when they received the phone call that a liver was available for transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL. They quickly rushed to the hospital and were greeted at the front door by caring professionals with a wheelchair to help transport Bob to his room.

“I remember that I refused to ride in the wheelchair because my transplant mentor told me that I needed to stay active to help get me ready to walk out on my own two feet after my transplant,” said Bob.

Seven days later, Bob did exactly that.

Bob’s nurses and doctors were surprised that he was able to walk on his own only three days after his transplant. Valerie was also surprised to see Bob standing on his own the next morning after his transplant.

“Prior to my transplant, I was suffering a great deal. I had extremely painful cramps in my legs from my ankles up to my thighs,” said Bob. “After my transplant, it was wild! All my leg cramps were completely gone immediately, and I have never had them since. My transplant proved to be a perfect match.”

Bob wrote a heartfelt thank you letter that he gave to a local organ procurement organization (OPO) in Florida to deliver to the family of his deceased liver donor. Bob was overjoyed when the OPO forwarded correspondence back from his donor’s husband and discovered his donor was a married mother of four.

“He wrote that my letter and words of gratitude helped take away a great deal of his sadness,” said Bob. “Our families are now forever linked through the gift of life.”

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Carolyn M. Welsh appointed Chief Operating Officer for NJ Sharing Network

We are pleased to announce that Carolyn Welsh has been appointed Chief Operating Officer for NJ Sharing Network.

“For 23 years, Carolyn’s leadership has helped NJ Sharing Network consistently achieve record growth in the number of lives saved and enhanced through organ and tissue donation and transplantation,” said NJSN President and CEO Joseph S. Roth. “Carolyn’s combination of intellect, passion and compassion have enabled her to make a positive impact, not only here in New Jersey, but within the broader organ and tissue donation community.”

Welsh, who previously served as Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer, will oversee the day-to-day administrative and operational functions of NJ Sharing Network, including leading the organization’s clinical services, information technology, human resources, regulatory compliance, performance improvement, hospital and community outreach, and communications.

Since joining NJ Sharing Network in 1999 as a Hospital Services Manager, Welsh has continually advanced to take on new responsibilities. In addition to her role at NJ Sharing Network, Welsh serves on the Board of Directors of Eversight and on the Chief Operating Officer (COO) Council of the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO). She previously served on the United Network for Organ Sharing’s (UNOS) OPTN OPO Committee. “I am honored to work with our dedicated team of professionals, community volunteers and partners who are committed to saving lives and improving the health and wellbeing of our neighbors,” said Welsh. “Working to change the world with donation and transplantation is my purpose, and I am excited to take on additional responsibilities and challenges to further advance our life-saving mission.”

Welsh earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Seton Hall University and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and Nonprofit Management from North Central University. Welsh lives in Colts Neck, NJ with her husband, Tom, their sons Scott and Kyle, and their family dog, Riley.

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Celebrate National Donor Day with us on February 14!

February 14 is National Donor Day, dedicated to spreading awareness about donation and honoring the generosity of organ and tissue donors and their families.

One donor can save 8 lives and enhance the lives of over 75 others.

Join us in our life-saving mission by encouraging someone today to register as an organ and tissue donor.

Read the heartwarming stories of hope below. There’s no greater way to share the love than through the gift of life!

Bernard China of Newark calls December 30 his “second birthday” to remember the date of his life-saving heart transplant at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBI). The road to Bernard’s transplant began in August 2017, when he woke during the night and found it hard to breathe. Tests showed signs of heart failure and his condition worsened in the months and years ahead. On December 29, 2020, Bernard had been despondent on a call with his wife, Constance, as he waited for a transplant miracle. Constance and their five children urged him to rely on the strong faith they shared. “Bernard, it’s going to come,” Constance insisted. Shortly after midnight, Bernard received the call he was waiting for as a heart was available for transplant. Today, Bernard feels blessed to be back to many of his normal activities and is forever mindful of the selfless decision made by his organ donor.

Jill Szalony of Montclair and her family recently celebrated the five-year anniversary of her life-saving heart transplant. Jill reflects every day on the gift of life that her donor gave her and the miracle of organ donation and transplantation. Jill is an active volunteer with the NJ Sharing Network, encouraging others to register as organ and tissue donors. She is also a member of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center’s Patient Family Advisory Council to help provide healing and support. “All donor families are heroes,” said Jill. “To give others hope and a chance at life when they are faced with sorrow – that is a selfless act of love and kindness. I try to live my life to the fullest in honor of my donor. Whenever I experience beauty in the world, a new adventure, or something amazing with my family, I thank my donor and her family.”

Help spread the word by visiting us on Facebook and Instragram and sharing our life-saving message with friends and family!