Opinion | Praying for a new kidney

Chuck Winer
Chuck Winer (Courtesy)

By Chuck Winer

I am a Jewish veteran in need of a kidney donor to save my life. My kidneys are failing due to medical treatment made necessary from exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam.

My very close friend Jack Keane, who is a long-time resident of Baltimore, is helping me to get the word out and to share my story within the Jewish community.

I grew up in Massachusetts and attended public schools. My grandfather was a founding member of our local temple. As a current member, I am part of a continuous thread of three generations.

I graduated from Ripon College, a small liberal arts college in Wisconsin. In 1970, I entered the Army as a combat correspondent and photographer with the 1st Aviation Brigade headquartered in Long Binh, Vietnam.

I was the editor of the brigade magazine and regularly flew with helicopter units from the Mekong Delta to the Central Highlands of Vietnam. During this time, I was exposed to Agent Orange, a defoliant chemical. When I returned from Vietnam, I started my 40-year career in health care administration. I worked for the state public health department, for Blue Cross Blue Shield, for a community hospital and on behalf of the physician organization at the Beth Israel/Deaconess Hospital (a Harvard teaching facility). I have always been a strong advocate for high quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

My interest in securing health care for all gave me the privilege of meeting with President Barack Obama on two occasions. This gave me the opportunity to talk with the president about health policy innovations that my Baltimore friend, Jack Keane (a former commissioner of the Health Services Cost Review Commission, which regulates the payment rates of hospitals in Maryland) and Jack Cook, another close friend with Baltimore, were pursuing. Obama was very interested and invited us to meet with his health policy team at the White House. I consider my opportunity to meet Obama and to offer advice to his staff to be a highlight of my career.

At age 44, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. I was given a year and a half to live. Fortunately, with expert care from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, I underwent an experimental bone marrow transplant using bone marrow donated by my brother. I battled through radiation and chemotherapy and have been blessed to be cancer free for 30 years, during which I have worked and enjoyed an active life.

Unfortunately, the treatments used to fight the cancer left my kidneys impaired and functioning at a low, continually declining level.

Over the years I have been treated for chronic kidney disease but I have managed with a great support team, including my wonderful wife, Debbie. However, during this past year, my kidney function has declined significantly. I now need a kidney donor to save my life.

Family members and a few close friends have been disqualified due to health reasons.
I am desperately seeking a kidney donor. My donor can be anyone who desires to donate on my behalf. He or she can reside anywhere and can have their procedure done locally with no costs to them.

I have lived a healthy lifestyle, and aside from my kidney failure, I am otherwise physically fit. Along with the hard work and unwavering support of my loving wife, Debbie, I am dedicated to eating a kidney-friendly diet, getting exercise and doing my very best to stay as healthy as possible under the circumstances while I wait for a donor to step forward.

It is important for me to share with you that an essential part of my life and my story is faith related. My faith has always been a source of strength that has enabled me to get through the many challenges brought to me by Vietnam, cancer and now kidney disease.

My faith remains strong despite this new challenge of kidney failure. I remain hopeful that a heroic, caring person will come forward to give me the gift of continued life. If you have ever thought of being an organ donor, I hope you will seriously consider me a worthy recipient.

Chuck Winer is a veteran. He can be reached through the web site Kidney4Chuck.com, at [email protected] or at 508-561-9155.

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