Adam Seth Litwin, who was Ron Ehrenberg's co-worker of seven years, managed to keep everything a secret for two years until he was one step away from donating his kidney.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on August 30, 2021. It has since been updated.
Ron Ehrenberg, a 75-year-old professor at the Industrial and Labor Relations and Economics School at Cornell University, was in dire need of a new kidney since he was living with end-stage renal disease. He had been on the list for about five years since it's not as easy to come across a viable organ; he'd even had every friend and family member tested to try and find a viable donor.
To buy more time to spend with his family, Ehrenberg decided to undergo dialysis. This, unfortunately, led to him being constantly in and out of a hospital. He was also banned from traveling for a five-year period, because he always had to be in town, in case a kidney came his way, according to ABC News.
The constant stress couldn't have been easy on the professor. “I was so fatigued and had so little energy,” said Ehrenberg. “We were so worried.”
He began losing hope of ever finding a matching kidney, but little did he know that the universe had other plans for him. After five whole years worth of waiting and making unimaginable sacrifices, Ehrenberg got a call informing him that a viable kidney had come their way. It was from a live donor, who had requested that they remain anonymous.
However, Ehrenberg begged the hospital to tell the donor he wanted to know who they were. The staff at the hospital said they would pass on the request to the donor, who could then choose if they wanted to reveal their identity. This is when he learned that the donor was none other than his co-worker of seven years, Adam Seth Litwin, an associate professor at the school.
Litwin sent an email revealing his life-saving gift. He revealed he had considered donating his kidney to his colleague after his mother-in-law's death.
“She and I were very close and she was actually the same exact age as Ron,” explained 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.”
“I'm kind of grumpy and curmudgeon on the outside, so this is definitely not consistent with whatever images that I have created to those around me,” he added.
Initially, Litwin was rejected when he offered to donate his kidney and was informed that he would only be a viable candidate after making some improvements to his health. For the next two years, he focused on his health. He improved his diet, stabilized his blood sugar, and lost around 25 pounds. He maintained it for a year before finally getting approval to donate on April 20, which also happened to be Ehrenberg’s birthday.
Litwin initially wanted to remain anonymous, but Ehrenberg's heartfelt request convinced him to come out and speak up, to inspire others to donate organs, and save more lives. Eventually, Litwin said that he donated his kidney not just to give his friend more time to live, but to also teach a lesson of love to his two children. “I keep joking that I don't want people to think just because I did this that I'm not still a miserable b------," said Litwin.
Despite saving Ehrenberg's life, Litwin doesn't seem to think what he did was absolutely phenomenal, and sometimes needs to be reminded that not everyone is as generous as he is. “Adam was the real hero,” said Ehrenberg. “I am deeply indebted to Adam and I will spend the rest of my life trying to think about how I can repay him.”
“We hope we could encourage more people to be donors either alive or deceased kidney donors,” said Ehrenberg. He now plans to spend more time with his family and grandkids, to make the most out of his newfound life, and Litwin couldn't be happier for his colleague-turned-friend.
Cover Image Source: Cornell University