Ehrenberg had started dialysis after his hopes of finding a live kidney donor faded but it was taking a toll on his health/
Editor's note: This article was originally published on August 30, 2021. It has since been updated.
Ron Ehrenberg, a professor at Cornell University, had been waiting 5 years for a kidney transplant, and his chances of getting one were starting to get slimmer by the day until a colleague stepped in. Ehrenberg had been living with end-stage renal disease had sought out all his friends and family in the hope of finding a match that could transform his life. Without finding a match, he had decided to start dialysis to spend more time with his family, according to Cornell. Dialysis can be quite taxing, and he was spending a lot of time at the hospital. He was also told to not travel for a 5-year period because the availability of a kidney would mean him having to travel to the hospital immediately. It was starting to take a toll on him. “I was so fatigued and had so little energy,” said Ehrenberg. “We were so worried," reported Good Morning America.
Ehrenberg had two options — to wait for someone to donate a kidney or get one from a deceased donor. In the latter, case the risks are much higher of the kidneys wearing out and would also take a few days to start functioning, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He was hoping to find a match with someone he knew, ideally his family, as he feared contracting a disease from an unknown deceased donor. At 75, he was also worried that his health would deteriorate to the point he wouldn't be healthy enough for a transplant. It also didn't help that the average wait time for a kidney from a deceased donor could be three to five years. He had resigned to waiting for a kidney from a deceased donor.
You’ll never believe what Ron Ehrenberg did for his colleague! 💚 This is truly sharing care. pic.twitter.com/rKEYxjyA71— Sharecare (@SharecareInc) August 27, 2021
After nearly five years of waiting, Ehrenberg got a call that a live donor had come forward. The donor didn't want his identity revealed but Ehrenberg desperately wanted to know who had volunteered to save him. He begged the hospital to let the donor know that he wanted to know their identity. The nurse passed the information on and that's when his co-worker of seven years, Adam Seth Litwin, revealed it was him. Litwin was an an associate professor at the ILR School and revealed his identity in an email to Ehrenberg. Litwin had wished to donate his kidney earlier but he wasn't allowed to citing health conditions including his blood sugar. Litwin secretly spent two years working actively on his health, including improving his diet, stabilizing his blood sugar and losing close to 25 pounds. After two years, he was approved to donate on April 20, which also happened to be Ehrenberg’s birthday.
“In my mind, Ron personifies the best of the ILR School and of the university. I would give my heart to this enterprise if I could, so this is about as close I could get,” said Litwin. It was his mother-in-law's death that really spurred him on to donate his kidney. “She and I were very close and she was actually the same exact age as Ron,” said Litwin. “She was not a candidate for a transplant, but it brought home to me how little time she was able to spend with her grandchildren, my children, and that there is something I could do for someone else that would kind of prevent that from happening again.” Litwin added that he hoped his actions would serve as a lesson of love for his two children.
Litwin said his actions might surprise many because his external is one of a grumpy person."This is definitely not consistent with whatever images that I have created to those around me,” said Litwin, before adding, "I keep joking that I don't want people to think just because I did this that I'm not still a miserable b**tard." Ehrenberg did not share Litwin's views about his own personality, adding, "Adam was the real hero. I am deeply indebted to Adam and I will spend the rest of my life trying to think about how I can repay him.” Ehrenberg said that he hopes Litwin actions inspires others to be donors as well.