Naava Hess of Linden is part of loving family devoted to helping others in need. She and her husband, Rabbi Joshua Hess, have encouraged their children — Daniel, Akiva, Esti, and Dalia — to look for opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others.
“At one point, I wanted to be a nurse, but science is not a strong point for me, so I passed on that,” Ms. Hess said. “But I always thought that the opportunity to save a life was something I would love to do.”
That opportunity came when she donated her kidney.
“I have a few friends and acquaintances that have been living donors, and it was always something that intrigued me,” she said. “When there was a member of our synagogue who was in need of a kidney, I signed up to test to see if I was a potential match, and so did my parents. At the same time, my twin sister, who lives in Israel, signed up to be a kidney donor there. One by one, we have been chosen — first my sister, then my mother, then it was my turn, when I donated my kidney in March. Now my father is undergoing the preliminary testing to see if he will qualify to proceed.”
Neither Ms. Hess nor anyone else in her family worried about the surgery, or about any short- or long-term health concerns. “After educating myself more and more, I understand well that a second kidney is really an organ that, for most people, is a bonus,” she said. “It’s as if God builds your body with an extra, and why keep it around? In our family, we call it #shareyourspare. I really just felt a tremendous sense of peace and calm, knowing that I was doing the right thing and that all would be well.”
Her spare kidney saved the life of a 37-year-old man who had been waiting for a transplant for several years. She’s been told that her recipient in doing well both physically and emotionally since his transplant.
“I am euphoric,” she said. “There is no other word to describe the feeling of knowing that you have done such a wonderful thing, making such a huge difference. I may never meet this man, but for someone I have changed his world, and that of his family. It lifted my spirit like nothing I have ever accomplished.
“We all have opportunities in this world to make a difference. The chance to give a family the ability to be together, to heal one person, one family, when so many are in need. I would do it again, a million times over, if I could. Since I can’t, I will pray that I can enlighten even one more person to save a life, and if they pay that forward and keep the chain going, I will be happy.”
The NJ Sharing Network is the federally designated non-profit organization responsible for recovering organs and tissue for the nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents now waiting for a life-saving transplant. It is headquartered in New Providence.
Ms. Hess is focusing on telling her story to encourage others by underscoring the fact that there is little to no risk to the donor and that the recuperation time is short. According to NJ Sharing Network, there are nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents waiting for a life-saving transplant, and one person in New Jersey dies every three days waiting for a transplant. Just one organ and tissue donor can save eight lives and enhance the lives of over 75 people. To learn more, get involved and register as an organ and tissue donor, go to NJSharingNetwork.org.