Forever Linked

By Jack Fassnacht, two-time kidney recipient

In 1989, I received a kidney from someone I will never know, at least by name. For fifteen years that kidney kept me alive, kept me feeling good enough to live, to work and to play. I know almost nothing about my donor, except that his or her family possessed the generosity and humanity to think about helping someone else at a very difficult and sorrowful time. Although that kidney eventually wore out and no longer helps keep my blood clean as it did for so many years, the person who gave it to me will stay with me until the day I pass on. The two of us are forever linked by that one act of generosity.

I hope that my life since my first transplant has proven me worthy of such a priceless gift. Since that day in December 1989 when I walked out of the University of Chicago hospital finally free from dialysis, I've become a father, started a second career as a patent attorney, helped raise money to build a new church, fallen in love, and given numerous talks about the critical importance of organ donation.

Undoubtedly, my greatest joy since that first transplant has been my daughter Claire. I was unable to have children before the transplant, but afterwards that changed for the better, along with the rest of my life. Claire was born 18 months after my transplant and is now a beautiful 22 year old woman. She is honest and kind. She plays percussion and loves sleeping with her cat, Nellie. She is another happy result of my donor family's decision to donate.

My first transplanted kidney wore out in 2005. I guess all things wear out eventually. Nothing is permanent. But I was fortunate to receive a second gift of life in 2005 from my youngest sister, Paula, who showed a special courage and love in becoming my living donor.

So I have four kidneys now. Three people are now permanently and profoundly joined in this fifty-eight year old body of mine. I am lucky beyond words, not only to be alive and dialysis free, but to have twice experienced the tremendous kindness and generosity of others.

Since I never knew my first donor family, I consider all donor families to be "mine." If you're a member of a donor family that has never heard from your recipients, rest assured that the community of organ recipients will never forget your kindness, nor the memory of your loved one. You and your loved one are never far from our thoughts. From all of us in the transplant recipient community, thank you for your decision and thank you for our lives.