PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Jessica David had been on the donor registry list for more than eight years before she learned about a little boy in need of a hero.
It all started when David’s father showed her a flier he spotted hanging up inside Sonia’s Near East Market and Deli.
The flier told the story of a 2-year-old boy named Garen, who was born with end-stage chronic renal kidney disease and in dire need of a transplant.
David, the co-founder of What Cheer Writers Club’s “Dear Rhode Island” project, reached out to Garen’s family directly and almost immediately started filling out the necessary paperwork.
“Every step along the way I just took as, ‘we’ll see where this part of the process goes,'” she recalled. “I think I was expecting to be ruled out … just because the chances are so slim that you’d actually be a match.”
After undergoing medical testing, David found out she was a match last March.
“By the end [of the process], I felt confident about doing it because they had screened me so rigorously that I knew they weren’t going to take my kidney if there was any risk,” David said.
The night before the surgery, David remembered laying in bed worrying whether the transplant would work.
“I don’t think it occurred to me up until that point that it might not actually be successful,” she recalled. “That is when it started to sink in … like, is it actually going to work? And this is happening tomorrow.”
But at no point, David said, was she ever scared for herself.
“They absolutely know what they’re doing,” she said of the doctors and surgeons involved. “They do this all the time, they put you through so much testing and explain every step along the way what’s happening.”
Following the surgery, David said she was back to her normal self in less than a month.
“It was like a switch for me,” she said. “I couldn’t tell you now that there’s anything different.”
David said she was able to meet Garen and his family a week before the surgery, describing them as “lovely people who are very grateful.”
“I feel like I’m part of their family now,” David said. “I’m so glad they wanted to meet me and know me. It has been such a great privilege to get to know them.”
“It’s kind of an odd relationship, but it felt really good to meet them,” she added.
One of the most rewarding moments for David, she said, was seeing how her selfless act resonated with others.
“It spread to people I didn’t know who had either been kidney donors themselves or had family members who were recipients,” David said. “To hear them tell their story about how a transplant changed their life … that gave me a real boost going into [the surgery].”
David said while she realizes not everyone is able become an organ donor, she would encourage anyone who’s on the fence to explore their options.
“It was an option for me to do it because someone needed it, so why not?” she said. “It’s a huge gift. It’s a pretty easy way to be a hero, so I definitely recommend it.”
Nearly 115,000 people nationwide are awaiting a life-saving transplant, and according to New England Donor Services, 22 people on average die before they can receive a new heart, lung, liver, pancreas or kidney.
Anyone who wants to become an organ donor can contact New England Donor Services by calling 1-800-446-6362 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.