On Wednesday, the New York State Assembly passed a bill that will allow a transplant recipient to return to work.
Under the New York State Civil Service law, Clinton County Deputy Sheriff Aaron Heroux was guaranteed permanent disability benefits following a double lung transplant.
Heroux, who’s had Cystic Fibrosis since childhood, received a bilateral lung transplant at Massachusetts General Hospital in February 2014. The hospital’s medical director and his surgeon have certified he is able to return to work without restrictions.
It has taken two years. On Wednesday, the state Assembly passed a bill that authorizes the county to reinstate and employ Heroux as a deputy sheriff. Clinton County Sheriff David Favro is eager to get him back on the job. “Just prior to airing going to Boston for his double lung transplant he came into my office and he sat down and said ‘Sheriff, he said, I have two things: I want to live. Second of all after I accomplish that I'm coming back and I want my job.’ But what do you tell a 37 year old young man that civil service says he's on disability retirement. He's past the age of 35. The Civil Service continually said no. We all had the great opportunity to go down to Albany and to watch the bill go through the Assembly. And when it came up on the leader board, Bill 307 allowing Aaron Heroux to be hired by the Clinton County Sheriff's Department as a deputy sheriff, was amazing.”
Heroux says it has been an emotional process to not only receive the transplant but then work to get his job back. While the law pertains only to his situation, he hopes it leads to changes. “With the medical advances more and more people I believe are going to be in my situation and they'll be able to come back to work and probably will want to come back to work. But it's such a tough road to go down they probably don't go down that road. And it's not just with cystic fibrosis. It's with cancer with anything else that we have grown medically to beat and especially at a younger age like myself, I'm only in my 30's, I'm way too young to retire. I should be able to go back. I love doing what I do. I've tried looking at other jobs and things to do and they're just not who I am.”
Victoria Heroux hopes her husband’s story will spur people to become donors. “When you actually get the call that he has new lungs like you get excited, but then also there's this knot that you get because you just realize that someone else is losing their loved one. It's very difficult, but I mean they gave me my husband. I can never repay them for that. I'm just hoping this gets out because I learned actually that New York out of the 50 states, we’re like very low on organ donation. So we're hoping this gets out and people are more willing to be organ donors.”
The Heroux’ do not know who the donor is. Sheriff Favro says whoever gave the gift of life will impact multiple lives. “This family that gave the donation to Aaron didn't just save a life. They brought back a police officer. Police officers have an inherent feeling that I will give my life to save yours. I will do what it takes to protect my community. We've had members of our department rush into burning buildings, jump into freezing cold rivers to save people. You don't think twice about it. So that family gave not just life to Aaron but they gave a good sense of security to this community. We are getting back a sheriff's deputy that will help protect and serve this community.”
Sheriff Favro is awaiting the governor’s signature on the bill and says he will officially rehire Heroux “before the ink dries.”