My transplant journey
I have always believed in signs. My daughter was born 01-01-01, the first day of the new millennium. After holding her for the first time, I decided to leave my job as a full-time teacher at a NYC elementary school to start a company to provide motivational and inspirational speakers for schools.
I was diagnosed with kidney damage in 2007 after it was discovered that a mental health medication had damaged the tubules in my kidneys. Doctors said it would be a slow deterioration and at some point I would need a kidney transplant.
In 2015 I travelled to Pennsylvania to meet a potential client. After meeting him at a local university where he taught, he invited me back to his home. It was a cold December evening. I followed him into a rural area, and as I drove alongside a tiny creek and up over a small bridge into his development, a feeling came over me. For some reason, I knew I should move my family to live there. I asked the man where we were. He told me we were in Nazareth.
The next year we did move to Nazareth, Pennsylvania just before my daughter started high school. I became very ill just after moving there.
When my daughter was in her sophomore hear of high school in Nazareth, my kidneys failed completely and I was forced to start dialysis.
I am Jewish and my wife is Catholic, but we were drawn to a tiny Christian Church in Nazareth. I was greeted by a warm man named John at the fellowship hour who made me feel at home there. I didn’t tell anyone in the church that I was on dialysis until one warm Sunday. I had a short sleeved shirt on and a member said to me “Did you get stung by a bee?” as he looked at the bandages from my treatment the day before. That was the first time that I said publicly, “I am on dialysis.”
Over the next two years, many church friends came to visit me at the dialysis center and helped me get through the 4.5 hour sessions. In 2019, I enlisted the help of an amazing organization run by Jewish Rabbis called Renewal based in Brooklyn which helps potential kidney recipients build a campaign to find a living kidney donor and then guide the donor through the process at a New York area Hospital. They helped me plan an event in my community to educate people on living kidney donation.
Two rabbis, in essence, came to Nazareth to help save my life. At the end of the meeting people had an opportunity to swab their cheek for analysis by a lab to see if they are an initial donor match. It is a confidential process.
I was losing hope and in the dark until November, 2019 when I got a call that I had a donor and would soon be having a transplant.
The pastor of the church asked me to announce the big news to the congregation. Before I was called on, a man stood up to share a praise. It was John and he said he was driving his truck a few months earlier on the approach to the George Washington Bridge and he saw a billboard that said “Real Christians do as Jesus Did.” He said it was the sign he needed to see. John told the congregation that unfortunately he could not attend the swabbing event for me that day, but his wife Louise had taken the last swab kit home and urged him to mail it in to the rabbis at Renewal.
John then announced , “I am a perfect match for Jay and on December 5, 2019 the amazing surgical team at New York Presbyterian Hospital will make my left kidney Jay’s left kidney.” I still believe in signs.