Organ Donors: 1 Life Can Save 8

Anthony Kilburn

Anthony Kilburn

By Lorraine Acosta

“Because of my donor, I can look forward to waking up and enjoying each day,” Anthony Kilburn says. “I don’t take anything for granted.”

Kilburn, 50, of the Bronx, has suffered from hypertension since he was 12. Then in May 2006 he was hospitalized with kidney failure. If he was going to live, he needed an organ transplant.

“When I got the news I became extremely calm and quiet,” he said, “while in my head I was thinking, ‘You got to be sh***ing me.’ ”

First thing he did was call mom.

“I don’t understand why God hates me,” he told her.

Her response was simple but uplifting: “God doesn’t hate you. He’s just trying to make you good, get you ready.”

“Anthony, we’re going to beat this,” she said.

Kilburn seemed a good candidate for a transplant. In December 2008, he was added to the waiting list. Meanwhile, he got dialysis treatments — three times a week, for nearly four hours a day.

More than 9,500 New York residents  are on the current waiting list for organ transplants. According to records from the Human Resources Service and Administration Center, the organs needed are kidneys, livers, pancreases, hearts, and lungs.

In November 2009, a day before Thanksgiving, Kilburn received a call that changed his life: A kidney was available.

“What a way to celebrate the start of the holiday season,” he said.

Surgery was Thanksgiving Day. Kilburn remembers cracking jokes as he waited to be taken to the operating room.

“Where the brothers at?” he asked.

“You know, trying to laugh and calm my nerves,” he explained. “I was a mix of emotions, from scared to anxious, nervous, and excited.”

He had good reason: Twice before he got his hopes up only to discover that he and a donated kidney weren’t compatible. But this time it was for real.

“Thanksgiving is not any old holiday for me,” he said. “It’s real special.  I got my kidney from a lady who died in a motorcycle accident in Texas. Thanks to her, I got another life, another chance.”

Still, he said, “all I would think about was what I could do to pay them back, how I owe that family my life.”

The New York Organ Donor Network strives to bring awareness to the general public about the need for registered organ and tissue donors. By providing the proper education and spreading awareness, their ultimate goal is to save and improve lives.

Antony Kilburn is a living, breathing example of what could happen. Volunteering with the New York Organ Donor Network, he aspires to educate people on organ donation through his own story.

As he’ll tell you: One person can save up to eight lives by donating their organs — and up to 50 people by donating tissues and corneas.

“I didn’t think I was going to make it to my 50th birthday, but today, I take life and laugh about it,” Kilburn said. “My kidney is prolonging my life, but I am not afraid of dying no more.”

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