NJ couple inspires each other to donate kidneys to strangers
CHESTERFIELD — It sets you back no more than six weeks and can be a literal life-saver for someone else. A New Jersey couple is telling their story, trying to convince others to follow their lead by becoming living kidney donors.
This journey for Cheryl Cohen and Frank Kimchick began when Cheryl's brother underwent a heart transplant. With a newfound interest in organ donation, Cohen got involved with the NJ Sharing Network, for which she now serves on the Board of Trustees.
That's the same organization for which New Jersey 101.5 Fast Traffic's Bob Williams and his kidney donor, Kim Roumes, participated in a 5K earlier this year, following Williams receiving a kidney from Roumes in February.
As for Cohen, as she approached her 60th birthday — inspired by another woman who donated a kidney at age 70 — she resolved to give up one of her kidneys.
When the couple met with a doctor, Kimchick surprised everyone by volunteering to donate one of his, too.
He said that decision was a no-brainer.
"I don't have to wait until I'm gone to help somebody," Kimchick said. "I can help somebody right now who has an immediate need, and for a minor inconvenience in my life, I can take away a major inconvenience in someone else's life."
First for Cohen this past April, then for Kimchick in July, the process boiled down to an early-morning admittance and procedure at the Living Donor Institute at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, followed by one overnight stay. Then a trip home for dinner by the second night.
After that, there was no heavy lifting for either donor as they recovered (and they'll have to avoid contact sports from now on), but Kimchick characterized their health status as having returned to normal.
"I look at it, we both look at it, like a little blip on the calendar," Cohen said. "And that blip in our lives is pretty meaningless, but it is so meaningful for somebody else."
Neither Cohen nor Kimchick knows the identity of their recipient, but Cohen was able to start a small donor chain within New Jersey, and Kimchick's kidney found its way through the national database to Illinois, with that state sending a kidney back to us here.
As far as the couple knows, they have been told both recipients are also doing fine in their recovery.
Cohen urged New Jerseyans who have not made the organ donation designation on their drivers' licenses to do so, or go to registerme.org or the iPhone Health app. She said another resolution she made at age 60 was to let her hair go natural ... and that, she admitted, has been much harder than losing a kidney.