My journey began five years ago, on the receiving end of Renewal’s assistance. My cousin was in need of a kidney transplant. The sight of her as she bravely endured dialysis – frightened, weakened, diminished – struck fear and pain into my own heart. Two months after contacting Renewal, she received a kidney, renewed health, and a second chance at life. Just weeks later, her husband donated a kidney as well; as I witnessed his recovery, his positivity, and his remarkable rebound. Inspired, I decided to donate one of my own. However, a huge – literally – roadblock thwarted my plans: I was significantly overweight and struggling with diabetes and a fatty liver.
Determined to persevere, I vowed to change my life in order to change someone else’s. Those five years since my cousin’s transplant were a time of drastic revolution in my life. I underwent bariatric surgery, receiving a gastric sleeve in February of 2015. I lost 75 pounds, was declared diabetes-free, and redeemed myself from my own failing health. Once again, I contacted Renewal, filled out the paperwork, and resolutely resumed the quest to become a kidney donor.
May 18, 2016 is a day that I will remember for the rest of my life: testing day. I spent the day in its entirety – from 8:30 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon – subjected to a rigorous battery of tests to determine my physical and emotional health. Two days later, I received the call I’d anticipated for years: I was deemed healthy and capable of donating my kidney. Better yet, I was a match for a patient in need! I celebrated, thrilled to have the chance to help free someone like my cousin from the treacherous, uncertain life of kidney disease.
We worked to schedule the surgery, ultimately settling on July 19, a date before the beginning of the Three Weeks. To my satisfaction, it was to take place on Tuesday, paamayim ki tov – twice as good. Three weeks prior to transplant day, Renewal called my recipient to deliver the good news. My excitement mounted along with his as the date of the transplant grew closer.
Finally, July 19 arrived. At 5:30, I walked through the doors of Mount Sinai Hospital, barely able to contain my exhilaration. As I sat in the hard plastic waiting room seat, I couldn’t help but notice a man sitting with a woman; I instinctively knew that it was my recipient. Sure enough, we met a short time later, clad in hospital gowns and awaiting surgery. His grateful, positive personality reinforced the knowledge that I was doing the right thing. Shortly thereafter, we were wheeled into surgery; three hours later, I was wheeled back out. Baruch Hashem, I felt great post-op and was raring to go when the nurse arrived to help me walk around. Of course, undergoing surgery is no simple feat and I did feel the aftereffects when I overexerted myself, but my overall recovery was smooth and straightforward.
My kidney donation experience was a positive one, and news of my recipient’s slow but steady healing buoyed me through it all. With a renewed appreciation for my own wellbeing, I’m enjoying my life to the fullest extent: I’m back at work, back at the gym, and dreaming of skydiving one day – just like my professionally skydiving recipient. I’ve even gone back to the hospital to visit another Renewal donor, sharing tips and support as she completed her own donation.
I kept an informal journal throughout my journey; reviewing it months after surgery, I am grateful to have a chronicle of the ups and downs, the emotions, and the overwhelming joy. Today, I share pieces of my account with others in hopes of inspiring people to give the fundamental gift of life to those who are still in need.