Diverse leaders join forces to get word out on need for, benefits of kidney
LAKEWOOD — After reading a Facebook
post from a friend about the miseries of dialysis, Sharon Langert knew her life
was about to change. Leah Topas, 43, of Lakewood was suffering from a disease
that caused scarring on both kidneys and put her on dialysis to remove
impurities from her blood.
Langert, a 44-year-old mother and social-media
blogger who is married to Township Committeeman Steven Langert, decided to
donate a kidney to her friend. But Topas had just found a match through Renewal,
an organization that helps match kidney donors and recipients. She urged Langert
to call Renewal if she still wanted to donate a kidney, because of the great
need in the wider community. Topas had surgery in August 2011.
Recipients far outnumber kidney donors. Most patients
end up on dialysis, waiting for a kidney transplant, said Rabbi Menachem
Friedman, program director of Renewal, a Brooklyn-based Orthodox-inspired
organization with an office in Lakewood.
Searching for donors
The introduction pamphlet for the organization
discusses the special needs of the Orthodox Jewish community that go beyond “the
actual referral of physicians and facilities.” While keeping traditions in
place, the organization uses modern means to accomplish its goal of finding
kidney donors. Renewal uses social media, newspaper, magazine and Internet ads
and email lists of religious organizations to educate and localize the donor
search, said Friedman, of Lakewood.
Several hospitals in the tri-state area do kidney
transplants. Information is available from the National Kidney Foundation or
People feel comfortable to talk about illness within
their own community, Friedman said. He said he believes that is part of
Renewal’s success rate. During the past six years, Renewal successfully matched
more than 190 kidney donors with recipients, predominantly in the Orthodox
Cuban-born Pastor Glenn Wilson of the Restoration
Family Worship Center in Howell said he hopes the black and Latino communities
in the area can benefit from education about kidney donation. The Lakewood
resident’s knowledge of kidney disease is personal. Kidney stones prevented
Wilson from donating to his son, Robert, 29, who was near death and on dialysis,
facing a six-year wait for a kidney. Robert’s younger brother, Glenn Jr., 25,
After reading an Asbury Park Press story about
Wilson’s family ordeal with kidney disease and after seeing his wife’s
sacrifice, Committeeman Langert led a recognition ceremony at the Feb. 7
Township Committee meeting, in which 16 donors, including Wilson Jr. and Sharon
Langert, were honored, along with Renewal.
After learning of Renewal at the township meeting,
Wilson hopes to use the Renewal model. Friedman and Wilson met Wednesday and now
are teaming up.
“We have two kidneys, and medically we could live
with one,” Wilson said. “When one person in your family is ill, the whole family
Like birds of a feather, people suffering from a
disease gravitate to each other. Wilson said he knows of many large families who
have a member on dialysis, but have little knowledge about kidney donation. He
believes fear from misguided religious beliefs and a lack of education prevents
them helping each other. He wants to help the highest impacted population of
There are no costs passed on to a donor for testing
or surgery, Wilson said. Insurance, including Medicare, pays all donor costs,
Wilson said. Many people do not know that, he said.
Friedman added: “Kidney failure is like a slow, long
“We chose to focus on the donor,” because it is
harder to find donors than recipients, Friedman said. “We are not looking to
push people to donate. We are looking to educate and inspire. People need to
relate to someone that they trust.”
Though Sharon Langert was tested by Renewal to
donate, it took several months before they called and told her about 34-year-old
Orly Tyler, a Brooklyn mother in need of a kidney. Langert knew it was
“I could empathize with that. I am a mother,” Sharon
“I really felt I was meant to do it,” she said. “The
night before, my husband said I could change my mind. And I knew that I
couldn’t, because this kidney was no longer mine. I was meant to nurture it in
my body to help someone else.”
Two weeks after the surgery, she was caring for her
family, shopping and working on her fashion blog. “It was amazing that I could
do that,” Langert said.
Lois Sutton, 58, of Tinton Falls said it was
bittersweet, learning her 19-year-old son, Albert, was a perfect match for her
sick 58-year-old husband, Sam, who needed a kidney and was on dialysis for a
month. Only one family member, the couple’s son who was studying in Israel,
tested as a good match.
“Dialysis was a horror,” Lois Sutton said. And yet,
Albert “is my baby.” The family turned to Renewal, which helped the young man
independently from his father. The surgery was done in July, with a good
“My heart went up and down. I don’t think I have
thoroughly processed this yet,” she said.
Steven C. Rubin, 68, lives in Ocean Township and is a
municipal prosecutor in Monmouth County. Every night his wife, who is a nurse,
starts his 10-hour dialysis. It is not easy to conceal the disease and the
quality of life lost to being hooked to a machine every night, he said.
Rubin learned about Renewal and is hopeful of finding
a possible match.
“I am amazed by the number of people who are in the
position I am in,” he said.