The Miracle of a New Kidney

  • Written by NICOLE LEVY
  • Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 06:00
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Dan Leavitt
Dan Leavitt

Special to the Journal

BURLINGTON — Dan Leavitt will be celebrating an additional miracle this Hanukkah. On November 8, as Leavitt was preparing to share Shabbat dinner with a friend prior to services at Peabody’s Congregation Sons of Israel where he serves as president, the former dialysis patient got the phone call he had waited three years to receive — a kidney was available for him. He underwent transplant surgery at Leahy Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington early the next day.

"It’s hard to believe. It’s still hard to believe. It happened so quickly," Leavitt said from his hospital bed. "It’s an omen that [the call] happened on Shabbat. [It was] a Hanukkah miracle," Leavitt said.

A Burlington resident, Leavitt, 71, lived in Peabody for 25 years, and plans to return permanently to be closer to friends. During his career, Leavitt sold cameras throughout New England. He also photographed weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs around the North Shore, and took pictures for the Peabody Little League and PopWarner teams.

During a visit to a specialist at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston in 2008, Leavitt learned that his kidneys were not functioning properly. In August 2010, he began receiving dialysis three times a week, with each session lasting 3.5 hours.

"I had nine pounds of fluid taken out of me each time," Leavitt said.

Although he would feel all right after dialysis, several days later he would appear sluggish and would notice the extra weight from the fluid when he ascended stairs.

Patients needing a kidney transplant are placed on a national, computerized list that matches candidates with available donations. Leavitt explained that patients may register on the list of only one [of nine] regional transplant centers at a time, although they may switch lists. The New England Organ Bank in Waltham administers the entire system.

Generally it takes 3-5 years to find a kidney match, but Leavitt, who has Type O blood, had more limited chances since one with Type O blood can only use a kidney from another Type O individual. But Leavitt’s nephrologist, Dr. Edward Walsh of Leahy, would not give up hope. Walsh said to him, "You’re too healthy not to have a kidney. I’ll get you a kidney."

A prostate cancer diagnosis in 2011 kept Leavitt off of the transplant list for a short while. However, his tumor was removed through a minimally invasive procedure known as CyberKnife.

As Leavitt continued to wait for a kidney, he was tied to the phone for three years. He was instructed to answer every call, even from unfamiliar numbers.

"I never asked myself, ‘Why me?’" Leavitt said. "I accepted what came, and what would come."

Leavitt maintained an active life. When sales slowed down due to the unfavorable economy, he tried new work. He also became more involved at Sons of Israel, becoming its president in 2009, and regularly leading Shabbat services.

With his new kidney working, Leavitt was discharged from the hospital last Friday. A recent Facebook post boasts that he is sleeping better now than he has in months. He frequently receives supportive messages from relatives, friends and friends-of-friends on the social media site.

According to the New England Organ Bank website (neob.org), 114,000 people in the United States are waiting for life-saving organ transplants, and others for body tissue donations. Leavitt hopes to organize an event bringing together his doctors, his transplant team and local clergy to educate the public about organ donation.

After he recuperates, Leavitt also plans to travel more, and hopes to visit Israel for the first time.

Visit DonateLifeNewEngland. org for more information about organ donation.

Last modified on Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 06:00

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Dan Leavitt

Dan Leavitt

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