During a visit to a hospital emergency room in 2009, Dave White learned that his kidneys had stopped working. Dave says that unhealthy habits like smoking, being overweight, not exercising, and not getting regular checkups played a big – and preventable – part in his life-threatening diagnosis.
Dave felt weak for much of his first year of dialysis. The clinic was only four blocks from the train station, yet there were days he had to use a cane to complete the trip. He often had to stop walking every half block or so to build up enough strength to walk some more. “It seemed like just getting from one day to the next took all of my energy,” Dave recalls.
I was angry and depressed about my situation, and often skipped my dialysis sessions.
Everything changed in 2010 when a dialysis charge nurse told Dave in no uncertain terms that he would not be around much longer if he didn’t get his act together. He took those words to heart, and from that day on he stopped missing dialysis treatments. Within a few weeks, he started to feel better physically and mentally, and began to believe that he might live a more fulfilling life if he committed to a healthier lifestyle.
That December, Dave made two New Year’s resolutions: to stop smoking and to start exercising. On New Year’s Eve 2010 he had his last cigarette and hasn’t smoked since. The following day he discovered he could not do a single push-up, which was another wake-up call. Dave focused on becoming as physically fit as possible, and by year’s end had completed over 15,000 push-ups. He longer needed to use a cane – in fact, he was jogging!
As his strength increased, so did his confidence and determination. Dave made the most of each day by learning new skills, exercising, writing, and advocating for better health for people on dialysis – his fellow “kidney warriors.”
In 2011, Dave started the evaluation process to get on the waitlist for a kidney transplant and by 2015 was listed at three different transplant centers. “Even though I was on transplant waiting lists for over three years, I can say with a full heart that I did not wait a single day for my transplant because I was busy the entire time.”
One Saturday morning in the summer of 2015, he got home from dialysis, popped some popcorn, sat down to eat, and saw that he had three voicemail messages on his phone. When he checked the first message, he heard the words that would change his life forever: “David, we have a kidney for you!”
“I named my transplanted kidney “Hercules” because I knew that he would be my source of renewed strength. My deceased donor’s family has chosen to remain anonymous, and I often think about how they decided to help save the lives of others during their moments of deepest grief.”
I will always be grateful for their generosity, and hope that one day I will be able to share with them how their gift has changed my life as well as the lives of so many others.
Dave’s transplant journey had such an impact on him that it has become his life’s work to help others. In 2019, he began doing outreach work in Brooklyn’s East New York community to help raise awareness about kidney disease, the importance of healthy living, and the urgent need to increase organ and tissue donation. “It is my hope that my story will help educate others and highlight the transformative power of organ and tissue donation.”