Kidney Disease Victims Searching for a Renewal of Life; Awareness Event March 26


Eric Stone truly believes this will have a happy ending.

His wife, Rachel, has spent the last two years on dialysis because of kidney disease, which prevents her from working a regular job while waiting for a transplant. And the numbers of those like her who simply run out of time waiting aren’t encouraging.

But they continue to stay optimistic.

“I’m really anticipating redemption,” said Stone, who lives in Denver after growing up in Havertown. “The story of our lives decades from now will be of overcoming her illness and of us having a fantastic family and home life.”

For that dream to come true means finding a kidney for his wife. It means letting people know that donating one of theirs isn’t a health risk or something that should in any way change your life. In fact, it’s considered a mitzvah.

Eric and Rachel Stone will tell their story
at Renewals’ kidney donor awareness event on March 26. Art provided

That’s why Renewal is holding a kidney donor awareness event — not a fundraiser — March 26 at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr.

“Our goal is to help facilitate living kidney transplants in the Jewish community,” said Rabbi Josh Sturm, director of outreach at the 10-year-old Brooklyn-based organization. “We come in and speak about donation to educate and inspire.

“I don’t actually speak that much. It’s mostly Q&A. Through that, we address everything.”

What Renewal stresses is that kidney donors are special and should be treated as such, meaning they should be compensated for prospective lost wages as well any related expenses.

“In the U.S., 99,000 are waiting for kidneys,” Sturm said. “Our waiting list is much smaller, 235, and we just had our busiest year — 67 transplants. At the same time, we’ve added 100 new patients, so the more we grow, the more people need kidneys.

“The reality is dialysis does 10 to 15 percent of what a healthy kidney does. After five years on dialysis, there’s a 27 percent survival rate. After 10 years, it’s 10 percent. Dialysis is not a long-term answer.”

But that’s all 34-year-old Rachel Stone has right now. First diagnosed with kidney diseases at 15, she lived a normal life on minor medication until just a few years ago when symptoms started to occur. Since then, it’s been a struggle.

“It’s been tough at times,” admitted the Los Angeles native. “I was an elementary school music teacher but haven’t been able to find a job the last two years because of my dialysis schedule and being sick and tired all the time.

“I tried doing nocturnal dialysis but had other problems. The way I look at it, I have no choice. This is what happened to me. So I really want to get a transplant. Then I’ll be normal.”

Besides going through Renewal, she’s also on the national kidney transplant list, crossing her fingers each time the phone rings that it might be good news.

In the interim, the Stones try to go on. They already know that even if Rachel Stone gets a transplant, they won’t be able to have children except through a surrogate or adoption. The disease is genetic.

Through the ordeal, Eric Stone has come to appreciate a different side of his wife.

“I’ve seen a real sense of strength and perseverance,” he said. “She has the ability to fight through without complaining about it.

“Obviously it’s been difficult for us.”

They’re hoping Renewal offers them a lifeline, which wouldn’t necessarily come directly through this event. Even if a prospective donor here isn’t a match for Rachel Stone, Renewal will often “swap” with one from somewhere else who is.

At least that’s how it works in theory.

“We’re not going to ask, ‘Who wants to give up their kidney?’” said Susan Birenbaum Stone, who was the first to notify her son and daughter-in-law about Renewal. “We’re trying to network, hoping either someone decides to do it or know someone else.

“We’re hoping to find a kidney for Rachel, but even if this event identifies a donor for someone else, we’ll consider it a success. We’re just trying to raise awareness about people in our community who need kidneys.” 

Contact:; 215-832-0729


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