Loyalty, family, organ donation; three very different terms but when combined in a time of need, shaped my beliefs. In 2000, my uncle suffered from kidney failure and had to go on dialysis. His life changed immediately. He had to have his blood cleaned through dialysis three times a week. He tried to keep working and coaching his two sons, Scott and Mark, but he was sick and the dialysis made him weak. His doctors told him his best chance at a normal life was a kidney transplant.
My Uncle Steve and his family have always been close with my family. I have spent every summer with them on Gun Lake in Michigan, and he is as close to a second father as I will ever know. Growing up, Uncle Steve and my dad taught Scott, Mark, my brother Nate, and me every sport and activity a boy could ever want to experience. Whether it was soccer or baseball, biking on trails or camping out by the lake, the six of us all took part. Kidney failure snatched all of those activities away from us and practically took the father that they knew away from Scott and Mark. The kidney failure advanced quickly. Seeing a once healthy and athletic father chasing his kids all over the yard was gone, and in its place was a very sick and helpless man. Knowing that my uncle had been placed on a national transplant list gave us some hope, but the average wait time is seven years. The doctors told him about the live donor program where relatives can be tested to see if they would be a match. Despite most family member’s reluctance to consider live donor transplant, it was my dad who stepped up and insisted on being tested. Although they are not blood relatives, he was an acceptable match. The test results sparked new hope and would change my life forever. In 2001, the successful kidney transplant brought our families even closer together. Two men now had an unbreakable bond. Witnessing the impact of the surgery on all our lives is hard to express in words. The organ donation from my father saved my uncle’s life and gave him a healthier body. My dad is a hero and organ donation became a real passion for me and my family. So many lives could be impacted if more people would consider organ donation. My dad is a role model for me, serving as President of the Rochester Kidney Foundation in New York, and publicly speaking often to inspire others. Risking his own life to give my uncle a second chance at a great life takes unspeakable courage. I am very proud to be his son. The transplant made my aunt and cousins thankful that Kevin Hill is in their life and that organ donation exists. I appreciate that there are people like my father in this world to inspire and guide me. I hope you will be inspired too.
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