New Jersey Marathon Runner Becomes Altruistic Kidney Donor
March 01, 2023
There were several factors that influenced Jorge Losch’s decision to become a living organ donor. He was inspired by his wife, Sara, who wanted to donate an organ but wasn’t able to due to health reasons, and he has two loved ones who received life-saving liver transplants.
There was also the conversation he had more than 20 years ago with his father, who questioned Jorge—an illustrator, runner and writer—on his love of solitary, independent activities.
“Years later, thinking about that conversation with my father, it occurred to me that perhaps it was time to do something outside of my own life, something that was bigger than myself and something that in the process could potentially help another human being,” says Jorge.
An Altruistic Decision
In December 2021, Jorge, who lives in Wyckoff, New Jersey, started the organ donation process by discussing the idea with his wife and adult children. “They had their concerns and many questions, but in the end, they all gave me their full support,” he says.
Next, he contacted the Department of Organ Transplantation at Hackensack University Medical Center and spoke to the living donor coordinator. That started the evaluation process, which includes medical tests, a psychological evaluation and opportunities to ask questions and address any concerns the donor might have.
“Everything was very smooth. The team wants to make sure you feel comfortable, and they go out of their way to be supportive,” says Jorge.
He was accepted as a donor and entered into the National Kidney Registry as an altruistic kidney donor, someone who donates to a stranger with advanced kidney disease. “For patients on dialysis, it's three days a week, multiple hours a day, being stuck in a chair. Organ donation is really life-changing for them,” says Michael Degen, M.D., urologist and member of the living donor team at Hackensack.
A Life-changing Surgery
A few weeks before surgery, Jorge met with his transplant team, including his donor surgeon, to go over what to expect from the procedure and recovery. The minimally invasive surgery, a hand-assisted laparoscopic donor nephrectomy, takes 2–4 hours to complete. Recovery time is less than what it would be for an open procedure, generally taking a donor 4–6 weeks to feel back to their normal.
Jorge’s “normal” means running marathons. “Because surgery is minimally invasive, someone like Jorge who’s very active will feel great after about two weeks, but that’s the point where I’m trying to keep him from overdoing it,” says Dr. Degen. “I told Jorge, ‘No running for the first few weeks.’”
Jorge’s recovery went as expected. “There was some discomfort, some pain, but nothing that was not quickly managed by an incredible team of nurses,” he says. Once home, he followed doctor’s orders and gradually increased his activity level. “After about four weeks, I could try running again. After about seven weeks, I ran a race to test how I was feeling, and I did well.”.
Giving Someone a Future
A follow-up visit about six months after surgery will check Jorge’s kidney function. “The other kidney grows over that six months and takes over the function that was lost when the donated kidney came out,” says Dr. Degan.
Donating an organ is a big decision, and one that Jorge is glad he made. His kidney donation benefited a 50-year-old Maryland resident.
“There are thousands of people waiting for an organ transplant in this country alone, facing months or years of illness and dialysis and uncertainty and fear,” Jorge says. “Two or three months of recovery for me meant nothing if perhaps one of those people could imagine having a future.”
Next Steps & Resources:
- Meet our source: Michael Degen, M.D.
- Learn more about the living donor program at Hackensack Meridian Health
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