Cornell professor gets new kidney – from his colleague

Regional News

Jason Koski/Cornell University

ITHACA, N.Y. – On June 29, after around five years of waiting, long-time Cornell University ILR professor Ron Ehrenberg received his new kidney.

That’s only half the story, as the person who donated the kidney was no stranger. Instead, it was Ehrenberg’s colleague and friend, associate professor Adam Seth Litwin.

Litwin, who knew about being a suitable donor for over two years, spent that time getting healthy in order to undergo the procedure that would save his friend’s life, but he did it all in secret.

“Ron knew nothing about this, absolutely nothing,” Litwin said. “I didn’t want to disappoint him if it didn’t work out. And, I needed to make sure that even if I were medically cleared, my family was on board, too. ”

On April 20 – coincidentally, Ehrenberg’s 75th birthday – Litwin was given the OK to become a donor. Shortly thereafter Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York, called Ehrenberg to tell him they’d found a living donor. 

“Right when we’re going to leave … we got the call saying they had a live donor and we’re scheduling [transplant surgery] for June,” Ehrenberg said. “And you know, my wife and I basically broke down in tears. We’d been waiting so long.”

Both men are on the road to recovery; Litwin hopes to be back at work soon, and Ehrenberg will be laying low as his body adjusts. The severe pain after discharge from Strong Memorial waned after a few days, and as he’s weaned off the immunosuppressant drugs, he will be able to resume some activities.

In another coincidence, the transplant happened on Ron and Randy’s 54th wedding anniversary. “I now live with great hope that I will share several more decades of life with my best friend and the love of my life,” she said, noting that she can now “hug my husband without a dialysis tube coming between us.”

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