At 9 months old, Jared Weiner was diagnosed with autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease, a rare genetic deformation that enlarges the kidneys and can negatively impact the liver and spleen. At 10, he made it through a lifesaving kidney transplant. He’s endured pneumonia and kidney stones. He’s had biopsies, routine blood draws and ultrasounds. Every morning and every night he’s downing 10 to 12 pills aimed at keeping him alive.
When you catalog everything that Weiner, 18, has endured, stepping off the edge of a 28-story building doesn’t seem nearly as daunting; you can understand why he’s so fearless.
On Saturday, June 8, Weiner will participate in the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland’s fourth annual Rappel for Kidney Health. Last year, Weiner, a graduate of Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, was the only rappel participant to be an actual kidney transplant patient. Gearing up for his second descent, he’s even more excited.
“I would think every normal, sane person would be like, ‘Are you kidding me? Who do you think you are?” Weiner said. “But I’ve been through so much … doing something crazy like this, and raising lots of money to give back to a cause and an organization that’s really close to me, is great.”
After practicing on a 10-foot training wall, the rappel participants — each of whom is required to raise at least $1,000 to benefit the National Kidney Foundation — will assemble on the roof of the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel. Then, fully harnessed with their backs to the open air, they will step off the ledge one by one and begin their decline.
As participants make their descent, they can stop, turn away from the building and admire the view of downtown Baltimore from hundreds of feet above ground. For Weiner, who has battled long odds for survival, it’s a spectacle he takes in with an immense amount of appreciation.
“When he was diagnosed, it was not a good percentage. It was not something you wanted to look at and read online. He’s like a living miracle,” said Rosie Weiner, Jared’s mother and kidney transplant donor. “Look at him now, there’s no stopping him. Any time [doctors] say one thing, he’ll just blow whatever the statistics are away.”
In addition to raising money to support the NKF, Weiner, who is headed to Towson University this fall, will donate his time and perspective at Camp All-Stars, a Johns Hopkins Hospital program that provides an overnight camp for children, teens and young adults with kidney disease. In years past, Weiner has been there as a camper. This year, he’s looking forward to returning in a leadership role as a counselor, eagerly waiting to share experiences and lessons learned.
There, he’ll preach the importance of remaining disciplined with one’s medication and strictly following doctors’ instructions and guidelines. Those two adherences, he said, have played a huge role in getting him to where he is today.
“It’s great to go give back to the younger kids as well as people my age or older,” Weiner said. “I want to talk about all the things we can do to keep ourselves healthy and where we need to be.”
Joining Weiner in the rappel this year will be his pediatric nurse at Hopkins, Barbara Case (she rappelled with him a year ago) as well as his 14-year-old brother, Matthew.
Weiner, never afraid of heights, has been on his fair share of roller coasters at various amusement parks. The rappel, though, he said, stands alone.
“It’s just one of those things where, in the moment, you can enjoy the view while you’re up there,” Weiner said. “There’s really nothing like it.” To make a donation in support of Jared Weiner, visit jewishtimes.com.