Liver transplant recipient Joe Tulli believes a Connecticut specialty license plate dedicated to organ transplant awareness might raise the percentage of state residents signed up as organ donors.
The 69-year-old North Branford resident said he talked to state Rep. Vincent Candelora (R-86) in November about getting an organ transplant specialty plate added to the list of plates already offered by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Candelora helped Tulli get a stretch of Route 22, Notch Hill Road, named the Beverly D. Tulli Memorial Highway in memory of Tulli’s wife, who died in 2001 after a five-year battle with cancer.
Transplant advocates say only around 37.1 percent of Connecticut residents are signed up as potential organ donors, compared with the national average of 40.3 percent. Tulli said the percentages are higher in the western states, but still well below the rates in Europe, where rates are more than double those in the United States.
Tulli knows first-hand about organ donations. Last February, he was diagnosed with liver cancer and placed on the transplant list.
He received a donated liver on July 17 in an 11-hour operation at Yale-New Haven Hospital’s Transplant Center.
"It was a very serious situation," he said. "If I didn’t get the liver, I would have died."
Tulli said he was near the top of the list because he had no other medical problems that might have complicated the surgery. But he still needs frequent MRI checkups to make sure the cancer doesn’t re-occur and tests every other week to see if his body is accepting the transplanted organ.
But Tulli recovered fast enough to participate with thousands of other transplant recipients in a Liver Transplant Awareness Walk in September in East Hartford. He walked with the Yale-New Haven Transplant Center team, he said.
Tulli was born in New Haven and lived in North Branford for 41 years. He was employed as an engineering draftsman for major defense contractors, while his wife was a second-grade teacher for the Guilford public schools.
He served as a , EMT and fire police officer for 36 years, and is looking towards mandatory retirement when he turns 70.
He and Beverly loved doberman pinschers and supported the New Hampshire Doberman Rescue League. He said fly fishing throughout New England is another passion of his and he belongs to the Housatonic Fly Fisherman’s Association.
"It’s very relaxing to be out there, nice and quiet," he said.
After his wife passed away, he set up the Beverly D. Tulli Educational Foundation in her name to award six annual scholarships, to students going into medicine and education from Branford, North Branford and Guilford.