When Methodist minister Karen Onesti found out during an interfaith clergy meeting in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, that her colleague, Rabbi Andrew Bossov, was in need of a kidney transplant, she was quick to respond, "I'll give you one of mine!"
Now more than three years post-transplant, the two say their friendship has deepened and both are healthy and active. They're so fit, in fact, that they're teaming up for the Kidney Walk at the Philadelphia Zoo this fall, recruiting family and friends to join their effort. The team name? You guessed it: "I'll give you one of mine."
Until a routine medical examination in the spring of 1997, Rabbi Andy never suspected that anything was wrong with his kidneys. However, his doctor noticed a decrease in kidney function and upon further testing, he was diagnosed with interstitial nephritis, a slowly progressing kidney disease. After spending nine years on medication, his kidney function dropped to ten percent and he was told he would need a transplant or dialysis.
That's when Karen made her selfless offer which Rabbi Andy accepted once he learned that no one in his family was a match. Both had some hurdles to overcome leading up to surgery. Karen found she had some minor health issues during the tests to become a living donor and so Rabbi Andy received dialysis treatment for seven months until she was healthy enough to donate.
On January 23, 2007, the two religious leaders underwent successful transplant surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Since then, both have shared the message of this gift of life with their communities.
The pair will come together to spread the word once again this October when they join hundreds of other Kidney Walkers at the Philadelphia Zoo. To find a walk near you click here.