Tag Archives: kidney

Two Glendale residents searching for kidney transplants

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

When the workday ends for Debbie Zeni, she returns to her Glendale home to her husband and two children, Ava, 8, and Dario, 9.

But before she can spend time with them, she has to meet with another member of the household: Nancy #3.

Nancy #3 is Zeni’s dialysis machine and its name was coined by her two children as it is now the third one to have taken residence in their home.

Zeni needs to use it each day for over two hours because she has a condition called polycystic kidney disease, a hereditary condition where cysts form on the kidney.

Both of her kidneys have been completely non-functional for almost two years, so she needs Nancy #3 to survive.

“It is a real hardship each day,” Zeni said. “But you just have to keep fighting and not give up hope.”

Zeni’s appearance would not cause anyone to think that she is fighting for her life each day, and many times when she breaks the news to people, they respond with a look of disbelief.

This also applies to James Deifel, one of Zeni’s friends who also is suffering from kidney complications. Deifel, a Glendale resident and father of two, has a condition called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), which has currently depleted his kidney function to about 16 percent.

Still, each day, he gets up and goes to work for Verizon in order to support his wife, Claudia, and two children, Julia, 9, and Michael, 13.

There is no cure for either Zeni or Deifel’s diseases. The only option for either is a kidney transplant.

Each has gone to family members and are on a transplant list, but neither has found a match.

But they are not giving up hope and neither is Deifel’s wife, who is now trying to up the chances to find a donor by using social media.

Last week, Claudia Deifel started a Facebook page called “Glendale Kidney,” where she has listed both her husband’s and Zeni’s conditions along with their case managers’ information. The page has already received more than 1,500 shares, and she is hoping that getting the word out to the community and beyond will better the chances of finding donors.

“I thought to myself, let me start with the community and get the word out to people,” Claudia Deifel said. “All I could do is keep putting the word out there and hope the right person sees it.”

Contrary to popular thought, with today’s technology, a kidney transplant requires only minimally invasive surgery. The donor would first have to take a blood test to see whether a match existed.

But both Zeni and Deifel understand the difficulty involved in kidney donation.

“We are aware it would really take a special type of person for a stranger to donate an organ to another stranger,” Zeni said, while holding Ava on her lap. “But if I get a kidney, I know I would live to a ripe old age.”

As they continue to fight, both are humbled with the overwhelming response they have gotten from the community via Facebook. They hope that as their story spreads, their chances of finding a match will grow.

“It’s great to see that friends of friends in the community have been spreading the word around,” Deifel said. “Remember, it only takes one.”

To find out more information, visit “Glendale Kidney” on Facebook.


Complete stranger donates kidney to Bayside man

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Doctors had written him off, and the small glimmer of hope Dennis Goldstein was holding on to was slowly slipping away.

But the Bayside man is alive and kicking now after a complete stranger across the country saw him in a dream and saved his life.

“If somebody ever tells you miracles don’t happen, don’t believe them,” said Goldstein, 73, who battled severe heart and kidney failure for years. “If I don’t believe in miracles now, I’m out of my mind.”

Goldstein, a retired business owner, is continuing to recover from surgery at his Bay Club apartment after receiving a live kidney from Kathleen Knackstedt, a complete stranger from California, close to seven weeks ago.

The pair had never met, but a spiritual Knackstedt said she had a dream that she was on her knees, extending her kidney out to Goldstein, the night before she first saw his face in a photograph at her close friend Marvin’s home. Marvin, Goldstein’s cousin, then connected the two and began the transplant process across the miles.

“I kept saying in the dream, ‘I offer you my kidney. Please take my kidney.’ I didn’t realize what the dream I meant until the next day,” said Knackstedt, a 59-year-old assistant principal on the West Coast. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I was never afraid. I never worried about it. It was something I knew I had to do.”

Goldstein has suffered from heart problems for 20 years, which led to a heart attack and a diagnosis of congestive heart failure five years ago. Medications ruined his kidneys, he said, and in August 2011, doctors took him off the donor list.

“They said I would drop dead on the table,” Goldstein said. “But I was determined to go through that.”

Goldstein’s willpower convinced doctors not to give up on him — even though the ailing, wheelchair-ridden man was physically turning gray and losing his ability to speak. In September 2011, he was put back on the long waiting list, only to later go through two failed donor matches.

“I always had hope, but it was getting further and further away,” Goldstein said.

But then this March, he heard from Knackstedt, who turned out to be a perfect match. The two — who now consider each other family — went under the knife on August 21 and are both healthy and recovering.

“There’s quantity in life and there’s quality,” Knackstedt said. “There’s a difference between walking through it and embracing it to the fullest. Life is just so precious.”

Goldstein, acknowledging his luck and reaffirming his faith, thanked Knackstedt for the greatest act of kindness he ever received.

“My life is a hell of a lot better,” he said. “I feel like God gave me a gift and I’m going to take advantage of it. It’s amazing to me to have this freedom again.”

His wife, Carole, said Knackstedt restored both of their dreams, enabling them to live life fully and even start planning to take trips across the world again.

“If someone would tell me this story, I wouldn’t believe it,” she said. “None of us believed in miracles before this.”