An open letter to the angel who saved Bob Williams’ life
I cannot believe it has been six weeks since my kidney transplant. I want you all to know that my recovery has been going well so far. The transplant doctors at St. Barnabas Medical Center are very pleased with my progress. I am building up my strength by walking and taking my meds and following every instruction. I have become a germaphobe because I need to be very concerned with possible infections for the first three months. When I do go out I am wearing a mask and surgical gloves.
I am so happy to be back on the radio doing what I love to do.
Since my transplant, I have been amazed at how many people have reached out to share their stories about their own transplants and organ donations. I am also realizing that there is a need for more awareness.
Tuesday night, my hometown of Roxbury did a really wonderful thing. In commemoration of April being Donate Life Month, the town council took the opportunity to publicly honor my beautiful living donor, Kim Roumes, with a proclamation. I could not this opportunity to pass without saying something about Kim and what she did for me.
I wrote a few words (actually, I wrote a speech!). This person saved my life and I will never stop talking about her. I am sharing the text of the speech here, and I hope you can spend a few moments reading it.
Kim and I would also like you to join us at the New Jersey Sharing Network’s Celebration of Life 5K/walk on Sunday June 2 in New Providence. This is an amazing event (it’s not your typical 5K with a couple of pop up tents and a whistle). Our team name is KIM-BOB We welcome your support!
Mayor, members of the Roxbury Town Council and friends ...
Today is a day of celebration and honor. We are celebrating life and I am so blessed that I have a second chance at life. Life as we all know is a fragile thing – not to be taken for granted. But sometimes you just don’t realize how fragile it is until you are faced with losing it. That is where I was.
My story began about three years ago, when I was diagnosed with third-stage kidney failure. Within a year, my kidney function decreased by half and I was at stage 4. At that point, I was referred to the transplant clinic at St. Barnabas.
I began an education process and became qualified to be listed on the deceased donor recipient list. However, the wait time on the deceased donor list could be as long as five years here in New Jersey. I was then faced with choosing between waiting for a phone call or beginning dialysis treatments within a year -- or beginning the process of finding a living donor candidate.
Initially, I was not interested or motivated in seeking a living donor candidate. I was completely mortified by the thought of asking someone to give up part of their body for me. Why would someone do that for me? Who would do something like that for me? I thought that once I went public with my situation that everyone would look differently at me. They would think I was broken -- and that was the last thing I wanted.
Well, thanks to the urging and support of my beautiful wife, Kathleen, and a dear friend who is a double lung transplant recipient, a letter was written last October and posted on social media. The outpouring of support and awareness from that letter was the beginning of this miracle. It was shared over 300 times on Facebook and it was published by our Friend Fred Aun from TapIntoRoxbury.net. I believe about eight people called St Barnabas and inquired about becoming a living donor for me. Everyone was unfortunately rejected for various reasons. Everyone except for this angel standing before us – KIM ROUMES!
Kim and I have known each other for about 20 years, living here in Roxbury. We have worked together on sports committees like the snack stand at the high school football games. Our children have gone through the school system and our sons have played football and baseball and other sports. Kim’s husband, John, has coached our boys in Little League and recreation sports teams over the years.
Up until recently, we had not seen each other in at least a couple of years.
This past November, I was starting to lose hope that we would find a living donor through the Facebook post. The hospital told me that someone was scheduled to come in two days before Thanksgiving to be evaluated. They would let me know if things turned out positive. Well, as fate would have it ... the very next day I ran into none other than Kim Roumes at the Panera Bread in Succasunna! She was there with her daughter, Tara. Kim was so surprised to see me on that day. And I was completely stunned to see her - once she told me she was the person who had just gotten tested for me!
It was the most emotional moment for both of us – right there at the Panera. Kim crossed her fingers and said "let’s hope this works out." After hugging her for what felt like 15 times, I walked away believing that it was a message from God that everything was going to be all right.
Leading up to our surgeries in February, Kim was so supportive and proactive in preparing and coordinating with Kathleen. On the morning of the surgery, She hugs me and says "Let’s do this!"
Kim is simply amazing. She is the most selfless and caring person. We as a community are truly blessed to be living in the midst of a true hero.
Once we both were released from the hospital and recuperating at home I texted her and told her: "I am sitting here unable to sleep and thinking of what you have done for me. I will never stop telling you how much I love you.”
I would imagine it is a difficult thing to take in. I tell people that I know you are the type of person that would have done the same thing.
I kept saying, "Why should I be able to live a good life, and not Bob?" I wanted you to be able to live out the rest of your life, enjoying your kids and Kathleen in all that they will achieve. I was never looking for praise. I just wanted to be able to help you.
I don't want you to feel like you have to "repay" me, just continue to feel better and live to see your grandchildren (hopefully) and what they may accomplish. I chose you because you are a special person and now we have a bond that connects us for the rest of our lives. This was meant to be! Together, we will change things!
I printed that message and I carry it in my wallet.
Moving forward, I really believe that God has kept me around for a reason. And that reason is to bring greater awareness to organ and tissue donation. Donate Life Month is the perfect place to start. Kim and I encourage you to become a donor – at the very least just check the “organ donor” box on your driver license. DonateLife.net is the national website.
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