Linden woman donates kidney to save a life and raise awareness

Photo Courtesy of NJ Sharing Network
Pictured are Hess family members, from left, Dalia, Esti, Rabbi Joshua, Naava, Dani and Akiva.

LINDEN, NJ — Naava Hess, of Linden, is part of a loving family devoted to helping others in need. Along with her husband, Rabbi Joshua Hess, they have encouraged their children — Daniel, Akiva, Esti and Dalia — to always look for opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others.

“At one point, I wanted to be a nurse, but science is not a strong point for me, so I passed on that. But I always thought that the opportunity to save a life was something I would love to do,” Naava Hess said.

That opportunity for Hess would ultimately come through living organ donation.

“I have a few friends and acquaintances who have been living donors and it was always something that intrigued me,” Hess said. “When there was a member of our synagogue who was in need of a kidney, I signed up for a drive to test to see if I was a potential match, along with my parents. At the same time, my twin sister, living in Israel, signed up to be a kidney donor there. One by one, we have been chosen — first my sister, then my mother, then it was my turn, when I donated my kidney in March. Now, my father is undergoing the preliminary testing to see if he will qualify to proceed.”

For Hess and her family, living donation was an easy choice to make. They never felt any fear about the surgery or experiencing any short- or long-term health concerns.

“After educating myself more and more, I understand well that a second kidney is really an organ that, for most people, is a bonus,” Hess said. “It’s as if God builds your body with an extra, and why keep it around? In our family, we call it ‘#shareyourspare.’ I really just felt a tremendous sense of peace and calm, knowing that I was doing the right thing and that all would be well.”

Hess’ “spare” saved the life of a 37-year-old man who had been waiting for a transplant for several years. Hess has been told her recipient is doing well both physically and emotionally since his transplant.

“I am euphoric. There is no other word to describe the feeling of knowing that you have done such a wonderful thing, making such a huge difference,” Hess said. “I may never meet this man, but for someone I have changed his world, and that of his family. It lifted my spirit like nothing I have ever accomplished.”

Hess is now focused on sharing her story to encourage others to donate; she is especially underscoring the fact that there is little to no risk to the donor and that the recuperation time is short. According to NJ Sharing Network, there are nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents currently waiting for a life-saving transplant and one person in New Jersey dies every three days waiting for a transplant. Just one organ and tissue donor can save eight lives and enhance the lives of more than 75 people. To learn more, get involved, and register as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.NJSharingNetwork.org.

“We all have opportunities in this world to make a difference. The chance to give a family the ability to be together, to heal one person, one family, when so many are in need,” Hess said. “I would do it again — a million times over if I could. Since I can’t, I will pray that I can enlighten even one more person to save a life and, if they pay that forward and keep the chain going, I will be happy.”

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