According to the National Kidney Foundation, 100,000 people in the United States are awaiting a kidney transplant. Only 16,000 a year receive a donation — 5,500 from living donors and the remainder from cadavers.
When kidney failure occurs, patients can seek their own donors, who often are friends or family members — people who feel it is their calling to help. But if a patient exhausts his options, an organization like Renewal is the key to finding a donor.
Renewal, a nonprofit organization, supports patients and families at each stage of the journey toward health. From the initial phone call to kidney donation, Renewal guides donors and recipients through:
- Doctor referrals.
- Dialysis center ratings.
- Hospital reviews.
- Donation guides.
- Support from the first day of testing through the transplant surgery.
- Donor follow-up visits.
“We are here to inspire and educate people about the process and what it entails through a zero-pressure approach,” said Rabbi Joshua Sturm, Renewal’s director of outreach. “You don’t do this on a whim.”
The past 10 years, Renewal has facilitated 380 transplants. Its 200-person waiting list grows each year, a direct cause and effect of the organization’s success.
Renewal is based in New York but recently held events to answer questions, share stories and create open-mindedness in St. Louis, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Diego and Miami. On Sunday, May 7, Renewal will present at Young Israel of Toco Hills in an event organized by Chabad Intown and sponsored by several congregations.
In addition to people seeking donors (Ira Tedoff, Nancy Rose and Staci Robbins), altruistic kidney donors Shai Robkin and Yafit Levin plan to share their stories.
Robkin was inspired to donate a kidney in November because of a Talmud lesson: Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.
“Why did I do this? Because I can,” Robkin said.
Similarly, Levin felt a calling to donate her kidney. Two years ago, at 36, she was introduced to a young mother of two children through an online listserv.
As a member of blood marrow and organ donor registries, the mom of three “didn’t have to think twice. It was my time.”
Though her family was concerned, Levin proceeded with the testing. She saw herself in the position of this young Jewish woman, a woman desperate enough to reach out to complete strangers in the hope of a healthy kidney.
“Many people don’t want to get a recipient’s hopes up. We don’t expect (potential donors) who are calling us to be ready to commit. We expect them to be on a fact-finding mission,” Rabbi Sturm said. “Sometimes they want to talk to a donor or a donor’s spouse. Sometimes they call back several times with questions.”
Renewal encourages patients to become advocates for themselves in the search for donors. By helping design an advertisement and market themselves, Renewal empowers patients to make connections with potential donors.
Renewal’s event at Young Israel will be a question-and-answer education session. No fundraising will take place. The event is purely to build awareness about kidney donation within the Jewish community.
“It’s OK if you aren’t considering donating,” Rabbi Sturm said. “Come listen anyway. All it takes is one.”
What: Kidney donation awareness event
Who: Kidney donors and those in need of a transplant
Where: Young Israel of Toco Hills, 2056 LaVista Road
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, May 7
Cost: Free; www.facebook.com/events/655513374643455
Read about Ira Tedoff a first-time recipient searching for a donor
Ira Tedoff, now a 70-year-old clinical psychologist in Morningside, suffered great tragedy as a child. At 5, he lost his brother to leukemia, and when he was 10, his father died from kidney disease.
Now the father of three is awaiting a kidney transplant — a process that could take eight years — because he has just 7 percent kidney function.
Read about Nancy Rose who is on dialysis while waiting for a kidney donor
The week that Nancy Rose spoke with the AJT, the 72-year-old grandmother visited Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital from her Peachtree Corners home twice. A permanent catheter in her chest wall developed a painful clog and needed immediate attention.
For patients with kidney failure, access to the veins is established to open blood flow out of and back into the body after it is cleaned by dialysis.
Read about Staci Robbins who is on dialysis after two short-lived kidney transplants
It was the mid-1980s in Detroit when Staci Robbins was diagnosed with cancer at 4 years old. She endured chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant. She was given six months to live.
When she was 8, doctors determined that one of her kidneys had failed, and the other was at 50 percent functionality. Her hearing began to decrease.
She vividly remembers the required change in diet, which included no salt and low potassium. She could not drink Coke or eat chocolate; she brought her own low-sodium packets of salad dressing to restaurants.