Rich Masterson was a busy executive for The Tribune Company in Chicago and raised three children who gave him three beautiful grandchildren. He says, "My family is my life. When I was not working and traveling on business I spent time with them enjoying every moment. I could crawl on the floor with them, go to every sporting event they were involved with, and just soak up their love without all the work. I often neglected my health even though I kept yearly visits with my family doctor.
Six years ago, Rich's doctor noticed after some routine blood work that his kidney numbers were elevated. His doctor told him to watch it carefully and drink lots of water. The numbers got worse and he was referred to a nephrologist. The nephrologist gave Rich the sobering news that if his numbers did not stabilize, his kidneys could fail and could even cause death.
"I would eventually need dialysis meaning four, six hour visits to a dialysis lab every week to have my blood cleansed and eventually need a transplant. I learned that thousands of folks never get a new kidney and eventually die. I went on a mission to defy this death sentence. I learned every thing I could on kidney disease and followed a strict renal diet."
Rich's family was devastated. His youngest son offered his dad his kidney. Sadly, his heart condition meant that he was ruled out as a potential living donor. Rich knew he would need to find another donor.
Rich say, "As time went on my health deteriorated. I lost energy and slept often, some days I could not get out of bed. I lost my appetite for eating and I grew very weary. I went to the [transplant center] and spent the day being tested for everything, I have been poked, prodded and examined through out my body.
What I came to understand is that kidneys were so rare and valued they wanted to make sure I would be a good steward of this gift that some thoughtful and caring person left by making the decision to save others during a most difficult time in their life. What a sacrifice!"
He made the same trip to transplant hospitals within three hours drive from his home including all hospitals in Chicago to get on as many lists as he could. He was told that it could take three to five years to get a kidney. He wasn't sure if he could stay healthy that long.
Late on Friday night, around 11:00 PM, Rich got the call! A transplant center in Wisconsin said if he could get there within three hours, they had a kidney for him! Much like a mom about to go into labor, Rich had his bag packed and ready to go. He jumped in the car, made his way to Wisconsin and by the next morning, he had a new kidney!
"All I could think about was, who gave me this gift? Then faces flashed in my head of my family, and how grateful I was for this amazing gift. A total stranger to me and his family decided to turn tragedy into a legacy for their family member and allowed his organs to help five other people with life saving organs."
Rich has this advice for anyone on the fence about becoming a donor, "He still lives inside us all as we beat our death sentences thanks to this brave soul. If you are hesitant about being a donor, think about this: there are more than 100,000 people waiting on kidney alone every year and only around 18,000 will get one. We all have causes we care about in life, family, career, the environment and many more, but your quest to help mankind does not have to stop at your demise. You can live on and give the greatest gift of all. I call it surviving a death sentence with the unselfish gift of life."
Thanks to his donor, Rich has more time to spend for his favorite hobby: being with his beloved family.