By Chris Melz
When I found out that my good friend from junior high school, Will, was in need of a kidney donor, I did not hesitate to step up. I knew that Will had been suffering from diabetes and I had watched him go in and out of the hospital a few times. In August 2008, on the day he started dialysis, I called Stony Brook hospital and inquired about being a living donor. My education on the end stage renal failure and transplants was very limited at the time; however, I did know that I wanted to help my friend.
Pre-surgery consisted of many months of various tests to make sure that I was a match. While it took a few months, the medical professionals want to make sure that I could live a healthy life with one remaining kidney. I appreciated how thorough the process was, since this was not a small feat. Once I was cleared, I felt even more confident that I made the right decision.
The transplant surgery was performed
8 months after my initial inquiry on April 21, 2009. The transplant went smoothly, and both Will and I came out of it in good health. What had surprised me most, was not how I felt physically after the surgery, but how I felt mentally. I had been a radio personality /Hip-Hop DJ for 15 years prior to the surgery and I enjoyed every minute of it. I continued to do it even after the surgery. However, the experience of the surgery opened my eyes to how short and long life is at the same time. Being able to give a part of myself to someone else was an incredible feeling, and I wanted to do more. While I was in the hospital I was able to see the important roles that nurses play in the lives of their patients. So in the fall of 2012, I made the decision to change career paths and enroll in nursing school. I knew that this would give me the opportunity to connect with people who are suffering from renal disease and allow me to share my story with others. I enrolled in Suffolk Community College to take the necessary prerequisite courses needed in order to qualify for their nursing program. After 1.5 years of prerequisites, I began their 2-year nursing program. I will graduate the program on May 15th of this year.
I’ve had so many opportunities to reach people that may be considering living donation through the National Kidney Foundation. Once I reached out to let them know that I wanted to share my story, they were so responsive. For about 5 years now I have been working closely with them, speaking at various NKF workshops sharing my story as a past donor and kidney advocate. When NKF asked me to write about my journey and share it with the team at UAE, I did not hesitate. Although I can’t participate in this weekend’s UAE Healthy Kidney 10K Race, I thought it was important to help the runners understand where their donations go. The funds raised through events like these help patients like Will, and donors like myself, live healthier, longer lives. I encourage those who are considering living donation to consider their work life and personal life as there are many things that may need to be put on hold. All that aside, in the end it is a wonderful feeling to be able to help another human being in this way.
Christopher Helmut Melz lives in Huntington Station, NY, and stays
busy running his own print shop, specializing in T-Shirt screen printing, embroidery and other basic print needs.