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Transplant recipient celebrating “the sweetest gift of all” this National Donor Day

New England Chapter Co-Coordinator, Judy Ehrlich

We’re spreading double the love today for National Donor Day! In the US alone, more than 120,000 people are waiting for a life-saving organ donation. We recently reached out to New England Chapter Co-Coordinator Judy Ehrlich to share how her donor has impacted her life:

I have a new Valentine in my life this year. Her name is Eliza and on Oct. 16, 2018, she gracefully and selflessly enabled me and another lucky kidney patient to receive living kidney donor transplants.

Like many in the PKD community, I had lived with an ADPKD diagnosis and the looming threat of needing a kidney transplant for 35 years. Part of my coping mechanism for all those years was to immerse myself in PKD education so I could take the best care of myself and prolong my kidney health. I committed to being a methodical planner when it came time for transplant. The idea was to control the things I could and try not to worry excessively about the many things over which I had no control.

Eliza visiting with Judy the day after surgery

I’m happy to say that my strategy, along with a bit of luck, paid off in a truly life-altering way. About three years ago, I had just been discharged from a brief hospital stay for a liver cyst infection and I was not feeling well. Eliza, who I had known superficially for about five years, asked me what was wrong. My instinct from the prior 30 years was to brush off the question, and not discuss my PKD with someone I did not know well. However, on that day, a small internal voice pushed me to begin the process of sharing my story. I knew that my kidney function was declining, and this was the first important step in finding a living donor. When Eliza asked what would happen to me, and I explained that eventually I would need a kidney transplant, she did not hesitate to say, to my amazement, “I’ll give you a kidney!” Of course I thanked her and downplayed it all, saying that it could be years and I’d keep her up-to-date.

Five days post-transplant, Judy takes her first outdoor walk with her husband Marc

Flash forward to early 2017 when I was approved for a transplant at Tufts Medical Center. Eliza had not forgotten my story and was as committed as ever to being evaluated as a potential donor. Because I had planned and I could afford the time for a methodical living donor search, I had several conversations with Eliza to explain why a living donor transplant was advantageous for me and what it involved for her. Eliza began a six-month evaluation, which rewarded us both with the gift we were hoping for: Eliza was a suitable donor and we were compatible!

I wouldn’t have believed that the story could have gotten any better, but a month before surgery we were approached by the transplant team about a possible kidney swap. This meant Eliza would donate to a recipient in the Tufts program who was long awaiting a compatible kidney while I would receive a better antigen match from the donor of that same pair.

Eliza and Judy meet at their follow up clinic appointments two weeks after surgery

And so it happened that four lives were changed forever on Oct. 16. The most amazing gift of living donation not only helped two of us from illness to health, but also bestowed the opportunity of a lifetime on the two altruistic, humble and beautiful souls of Eliza and the other donor. They are now counted among the heroes who have literally given of themselves to save a fellow human being.

Way better than chocolates or flowers! Happy Valentine’s Day to all.

When you become an organ donor, you’re giving love and giving life. Register today at organdonor.gov.

Comments

  1. Shirley Bernstein says:

    I am so happy, Judy, that you received that life saving kidney.I hope you will be up and about very soon. Take good care of yourself and enjoy your family and life. Sending much love to you.

  2. Judy,
    CONGRATULATIONS!!! It finally happened after all this time and I’m SO thrilled for you! 😂

  3. Jean Sommer says:

    Great Story, Judy! You are a great leader and mentor to others. Keep shining your light, helping others, and spreading PKD awareness.

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