Lauren Shields went to sleep Wednesday night not knowing if Gov. Andrew Cuomo would sign the legislation named for her
Then her mother, Jeanne, woke the 12-year-old from Stony Point to play her a message from State Senator David Carlucci.
"I had gone to sleep. Mommy came in with her phone and played me a message that Senator Carlucci had left saying the bill had been signed.
"I thought it was wonderful that it was actually signed. It's going to save lives. It's going to save thousands of lives."
"I was extremely excited," Carlucci said. "Lauren and I have been working so hard on this with so many advocates over the last two years."
Lauren's Law adds language to the Department of Motor Vehicles applications, which are designed to encourage people to register as donors.
The new language reads: "You must fill out the following section: Would you like to be added to the Donate Life Registry? Check box for 'yes' or 'skip this question."
According to Carlucci, only 19 percent of those eligible are enrolled in the organ donor program in New York. The national average is 43 percent.
"We realized there is more than education. There are policy procedures we can put into effect to dramatically change this abysmal number," Carlucci said.
The New York State Senate and Assembly passed the legislation in June and Cuomo signed Wednesday, just hours before the midnight deadline.
Cuomo's statement regarding the new law can be found here.
"With thousands of New Yorkers on the waiting list for organ and tissue donations, New York State must work harder to enroll our residents in this important life-saving program," Cuomo said. "By adding this new language to DMV application forms, it is our hope that many more New Yorkers sign up tot be on the list of those willing to donate an organ or tissue. I commend Senator Carlucci and Assemblyman (Felix W.) Ortiz for their hard work on this legislation and I thank Lauren Shields for her advocacy on this important issue."
Shields, who received a heart transplant when she was nine, became the face of the movement to boost organ donation in New York, helping it to gain national attention.
Jeanne Shields, Lauren's mother, said she gets chills thinking of her daughter's time in the hospital when she hoped something good would come of all she went through. She said they were very nervous until hearing that the bill had been signed.
"It was the last day of waiting for it to be signed. We were on pins and needles," Jeanne Shields said. "He had until midnight last night. We had spent so much time on it. At 4:30 in the afternoon, I was in a panic. Was it possible this would not be signed? But it's okay. As long as it was signed.
"It was such a relief to hear when the senator called and said it had been signed."
Carlucci said they had hoped to get the law passed sooner, but there were complications along the way and the Lauren's Law was retooled before it finally passed.
"Our goal was to save lives here in New York," Carlucci said. "We retooled Lauren's Law and it's got the governor's signature, so we couldn't be happier. This bill will make a dramatic difference in increasing the number of people enrolled in the donor program.
"Lauren has been such an amazing advocate and a real leader. It was her that finally knocked down the door and said we've got to do this. Because some one donated, Lauren's life was saved."
Over 10,000 New Yorkers are waiting on organ transplant lists. Only 929 donations were made last year and 577 New Yorkers died in 2011 while they were on the transplant waiting list.
The Shields family joined Carlucci at a press conference Thursday, which primarily focused on the senator's five-point jobs plan for New York. He said that having Shields emerge to put a face on the issue of organ donation helped the issue gain attention that is already there for concerns such as job creation.
"As soon as I heard the news, I said I've got to call Lauren," Carlucci said. "We talked about jobs today, which is extremely important. But this (organ donation) doesn't get a lot of attention. You heard the Presidential debate. Nobody talked about organ donation last night. But we believe this simple change will profoundly change people's lives. That's what is so exciting about it."
The new legislation will take effect Oct. 3, 2013, one year from when it was signed into law.