On the morning of the transplant surgery, we sat together in our hospital gowns, with our family nearby. I was the first to be called into surgery. Hours later, I awoke feeling slightly nauseous from the medication, surrounded by family and friends, and amazed to be feeling no pain! The next day, the nurse walked me to Susan’s hospital room, a few doors down from my own. I observed that Susan looked healthier than she had in years, and my heart was filled with joy and gratitude to see her! I was discharged after two days, while Susan remained hospitalized for a few more days. Over the next couple of weeks, I recuperated from the surgery, and soon returned to work.
Following the transplant, Susan and I became active in the National Kidney Foundation. We attended the 2004 Transplant Olympics in Minnesota, where Susan entered the bowling competition, and I race walked. Over time, we both found ourselves speaking with people who would seek us out, asking questions about our transplant experience. To this day, we still get inquiries, and I find it extremely rewarding to reassure people who are considering giving this gift of life to a friend, loved one, or even a stranger in need.
At the time of the transplant, I was working as the Long Island Regional Assistant to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. In that role, I was invited to attend a news conference that launched “Donate Life Long Island”, an initiative to increase the number of organ and tissue donors on Long Island. I read greetings from Senator Clinton, and was asked by Assemblyman James Conte, a two time kidney transplant recipient himself, to speak about my transplant experience. To my surprise, Assemblyman Conte then presented me with the first New York State “Gift of Life” Medal of Honor.
While I was honored to receive such a prestigious award, my greatest reward is knowing that I helped my daughter have a chance to live a healthier and happier life with her husband and son.
I truly hope that those reading my story will be inspired to consider becoming an organ donor. It is truly a life-changing and life-affirming experience.