NEW YORK (PIX11) — There is no greater gift than the ability to save a life. I am grateful that I played a pivotal role in saving the life of a man who expected to die if he didn’t get a kidney transplant.
I told Brett Ashley’s story on PIX11 and, nine months later, he received the gift of life. It all began with a desperate appeal my wife found on her Facebook page.
She alerted me to Ashley’s plight. I interviewed him days before Christmas.
“I’m looking for a kidney to save my life,” he said.
After three-and-a-half years on dialysis, the clock of time was running low for him. He said he expected to die if he didn’t find a kidney donor this year.
“The risk of him dying on dialysis was was high,” his doctor confirmed.
With tens of thousands on wait lists for a kidney donor, Ashley’s attempt to find one was challenging. He launched a costly advertising campaign in an attempt to find a donor.
“But it wasn’t until I found your wife on Facebook and told her my situation when my odds of living increased,” Ashley recalled. “She spoke to you and you arranged an interview with me. About a dozen people responded to your report, and only one person was a perfect match.”
That person was an altruistic donor who wanted to remain anonymous. According to Ashley, “an altruistic donor is someone who does something for another person without any strings attached. He saw the report on TV, he saw the desperation and I think it hit a nerve with him.”
On Sept. 12, Ashley was wheeled into the operating room at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey where he met his surgeon, Dr. Michael Goldstein, the director of the organ transplant program. He asked his patient, “Are you ready to go?” which brought a quick response, “I am so ready.”
Dr. Goldstein told me afterwards, “The surgery went very well. It took us about three hours to do the transplant and everything went perfectly as expected.”
It was an emotional moment when Ashley met his donor after the surgery.
“He came in and we gave each other a big hug,” Ashley said.
Similar emotions were shared by his partner, Nina Gordon, when she met the donor.
“He wanted to give me a hug and I just wanted to give him a hug. He gave us life,” she said.
Three weeks after the surgery, Ashley and his partner are getting adjusted to a normal lifestyle again, tending to their plants and taking daily walks outside their home in Great Neck.
Dr. Goldstein is confident.
“The prognosis is very good. Patients who receive kidney transplants live healthy, normal lives,” the doctor said.
Recuperating at home, Ashley says, “I feel absolutely fantastic and I’m feeling semi-normal again. It was this story that found me this living donor. I’ll be forever grateful to PIX 11 News, to you and your wife Lorri. Thank you so much, you really did save a life Marvin.”
How wonderful it would be if all stories had such a positive ending. Brett Ashley is one of the lucky ones. More than 100,000 people are on the national registry waiting for a kidney donor. Holocaust victim Anne Frank once observed, “No one has ever been poorer by giving.”
Right now, there is one man who is much richer for giving a gift of life to a total stranger.
The National Kidney Registry can be reached at www.nkr.org.