Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'To Have Your Life Back Is Amazing'

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'To Have Your Life Back Is Amazing'

Article excerpt

HACKENSACK -- A son jumped at the chance to donate a kidney to his father, but they weren't compatible. A husband wanted to do the same for his wife, but they, too, didn't match.

Luckily for both North Jersey families, strangers to each other, the wife matched with the son, and the father matched with the husband, making possible a swap -- carried out one long day in February by a team of doctors at Hackensack University Medical Center -- that is expected to prolong and improve the lives of the kidney recipients.

The families met Friday in a conference room at the hospital and the recipients finally got to know the person whose organ they carry.

Debra Ferman, 62, of Mahwah cried upon meeting Kenneth A. Furlong, 23, of West New York.

"To have your life back is amazing," Ferman said. "To have a young person like this so selflessly donate a kidney is ... I can't even describe. That's why I was crying."

The paired kidney exchange, with living donors, within Hackensack University Medical Center was the first of its kind at the hospital. Such donor exchanges are rare -- and even rarer to happen within a single hospital -- because the donors have to be willing to give to recipients who aren't related to them, and the donor-recipient pairings have to compatible, said Dr. James Lin, the surgeon who implanted the kidneys.

"It's almost like a match made in heaven," he said.

Kenneth V. Furlong, 60, of West New York was added to the transplant waiting list in December 2014, and Debra Ferman in June 2015, Lin said.

Though they had family members willing to donate to them, the donors and recipients didn't match, based on variables such as blood type and whether the body would reject the donated organ.

"I was run down," Furlong said. "Between dialysis and my kidneys barely functioning, it was a struggle to get through the day."

After a series of tests, doctors at Hackensack University Medical Center found out the Furlongs and the Fermans could be paired. …

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