The author of this post, New Jersey 101.5 traffic reporter Bob Williams, is the recipient of a kidney donation that saved his life.

Sunday was an incredible day. The New Jersey Sharing Network held its annual Celebration of Life 5K and Walk at its headquarters in New Providence — a huge outpouring of love and emotion, as approximately 10,000 people gathered in support of organ and tissue donation. Another 5,000 gathered in Long Branch.

There were dozens of teams of living organ donors, loving family and friends of deceased organ donors, and many grateful organ donor recipients. We were all there to thank the living organ donors who made the extreme and selfless sacrifice in donating a kidney to someone who was in desperate need. We were also there to honor the memory of the loved ones who have died but had made the decision to donate their organs and tissue so that others could live on.

One of the main goals of this event is to bring a greater awareness to the importance of becoming an organ and tissue donor. There are two categories of donor: deceased donor and living donor. Among the organs and tissue that can be transplanted from a deceased donor are kidneys, lungs, heart, liver, intestine and pancreas. Tissue donations include cornea, skin, ligaments, tendons, bone and heart valves. A living donor is able to donate one kidney, one lung and a portion of the liver, which is a regenerative organ.

Veronica Horvath, marketing and communications coordinator for the New Jersey Sharing Network, says the average wait time in New Jersey for an organ transplant from a deceased donor is over five years! The wait time for an organ from a living donor can be considerably less since the transplant can be scheduled in advance according to the donor’s schedule.

My living donor, Kim Roumes of Roxbury, is an amazing person. Her desire to give her kidney to me is the most selfless and caring act that I have ever witnessed. Nearly four months later, I cannot believe that I am walking around with her kidney inside me and experiencing my best health in years. I asked Kim to make a few comments for this article on the process of becoming a living donor.

From Kim:

“The first thing I would say to do, is to contact the sharing network or your local hospital. We had the surgery performed at St Barnabas Medical Center In Livingston. You will fill out the application but it is important to note that from this point on, you as the potential donor, are not committed. It is important to find out the information and do the research. Once your application is approved, you then meet with the entire transplant team, including a social worker, nurse coordinator and nephrologist.

My decision of becoming a donor was only made clearer after meeting with the team. The next step would be to undergo some simple, but important tests, such as: blood work, urine cultures, EKG, XRay, CAT scan and stress test. As a living donor, they want you to make sure you are as healthy as can be. Once all is clear, a surgery date is set. Any testing and the transplant itself, are all covered under the recipient’s insurance. There is no cost to you as the donor. The transplant is a "simple" laparoscopic procedure, so recovery time is minimal . It is a small price to pay compared to the life you are giving back to a recipient. If you have any inclinations of becoming a potential donor, do the research and ask questions. It's a simple way to save a life.”

In watching Kim recuperate, I would agree that it was an easy recovery for her, but she is being modest in what she did for me. She saved me from declining health and dialysis. She saved my life! She is my miracle. You can be someone’s miracle too. There are more people in need of an organ or tissue transplant than there are donors. Please give it some thought.

This weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting NJ 101.5 listener Lou Rios of Red Bank who donated a kidney to an unknown recipient on Feb. 12, 2019 (the same day of my transplant). Lou, you are an amazing person.

NJ Sharing Network’s transplant laboratory works closely with living donation programs at its transplant centers to ensure compatibility between living donors and recipients. Registration takes less than one minute with three easy ways to sign up:

• iPhone Health App: iPhone users with iOS 10 and above can quickly and easily join the National Donate Life Registry using the Health app

• Register online and join the National Donate life Registry

• Visit your local Motor Vehicle Agency

“The 5K Celebration of Life events bring together donor families, transplant recipients, those waiting for a transplant, volunteers, sponsors and partners, all of whom play an integral role in making our life-saving mission possible," Joe Roth, president and CEO of the NJ Sharing Network said. "The sheer volume of support, compassion and dedication is palpable as our teams walk and run to celebrate the gift of life.”

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