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On Volunteerism, Community Service and My Own Kidney Donation

Editor’s Note: The Teaneck Chamber of Commerce held its 14th Annual Community Service Awards Dinner on October 29, 2015. Among the awardees for public service was David Barach, for his community service through the Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps. This is his meaningful and moving acceptance speech.

“I would like to thank the Chamber of Commerce for this award, and congratulate all the other award recipients.

“I am honored that the Chamber of Commerce has recognized me for the Community Service Award, but in fact, it is really the Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps that has earned this honor.

“The volunteers of TVAC serve the community by providing emergency medical care for our residents in their time of need. We provide this service on our own time, balancing the needs of our families, employers, schools and other obligations. We provide this service days, nights, holidays and weekends. We provide this service despite hurricanes, ice storms, floods and fires.

“We provide this service selflessly, without compensation, because we believe in volunteerism.

“Volunteerism stems from the recognition that we can’t only be takers. We must also return something to society that has served us so well. There is no greater gratification to the volunteers of TVAC than seeing a pulse return to a patient who had been on death’s doorstep, or helping to bring a new life into the world when the baby wouldn’t wait. We thrive on the comfort and relief that shines in our patients’ eyes as we treat them on the way to the hospital, and the gratitude of family members who so depend on us to care for their loved ones.

“I am proud to have been a TVAC member since 2001, serving the public as an EMT and the organization as the Blood Drive Chairman and in fundraising activities. The same motivations that moved me join TVAC have had a broader effect on my life recently.

“Many of our patients are stricken with chronic diseases, such as End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), marked by the failure of kidney function. I’ve participated in many ambulance calls to the local dialysis center, and have seen how patients’ quality of life deteriorates while they wait on the national waiting list for a kidney transplant. Statistics indicate a 70 percent mortality rate for patients on dialysis for five years, with an average waiting time on the national registry, which numbers about 100,000 people, of nearly five years.

“So it wasn’t such a great leap for me to consider donating a kidney. My TVAC service over the past 14 years has helped thousands of people on a broad scale, but could really I make a life-and-death difference to a single person on the most intimate of scales?

“Most kidney transplants come from cadavers, but a growing number are from living donors. I decided to see if I could be a living donor, even though I didn’t personally know anyone with ESRD. With the support of my family and my rabbi, I worked with Renewal, an organization that advocates on behalf of kidney donors, to match me up with a recipient.

“I registered with the Recanati/Miller Transplantation Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York for an intensive series of medical tests to qualify as a living donor. I was very impressed with their fabulous staff of doctors, nurses and support personnel, and decided that I could move forward with it.

“On October 20, I was wheeled in the operating room at Mount Sinai hospital to have my left kidney removed for immediate transplant into the recipient, who was in the adjoining operating room. I was very happy to learn that the surgery was a complete success. While recovering at the hospital, our families got to know each other and developed a close bond. I went home two days later, and my recipient went home in five days.

“People wonder how someone could do this. In my case, it shouldn’t be too hard to figure that out. Not everyone is in a position to save someone’s life. At TVAC, we potentially face this every day, and occasionally our rapid response and intervention is the only thing separating our patient from life and death.

“In my case, I decided that several months of medical testing and a few weeks of discomfort were a small price to pay to bring someone back from the brink of death to his loving family and community.

“The more I learned about kidney transplants and living donations, the more I came to understand how important it is. I decided to turn my experience into a learning opportunity, in the hope that others will be inspired to see if it is right for them.

“The first step is to become informed. Before I learned the facts, I barely knew about living kidney donations, donor eligibility, matching, surgical risks and recovery times. Over time, and with the support of Renewal and the medical team at Mt. Sinai Hospital, I became very familiar with the process and risks, and came to the point that I was ready to proceed. I can only hope that others will follow the same path.”

David Barach has lived in Teaneck since 1998 with his wife Judy. He has been an active member of the Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps since 2001. Mr. Barach donated a kidney on October 20. Anybody wishing to learn more about kidney donation may contact Renewal at [email protected].

By David Barach

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