As a long-distance runner and avid rock climber, Hendrik was a prime candidate to be a living kidney donor. “I’m fortunate to say I’m healthy,” he says. “And I immediately felt grateful that there was something I could do in the world that would have such a huge impact.”
The need for kidney donors far outpaces the demand for any other organ in the U.S. Currently, almost 109,000 people are on the national organ transplant list; of those, roughly 92,000 are waiting for a kidney, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. In 2019, about 29% of kidney transplants performed in the U.S. stemmed from a living donor, and less than 2% of kidney transplants came from altruistic donors (also referred to as nondirected donors).
In January 2019, Hendrik told his wife, Lumin, that he had reached out to the National Kidney Registry to become an altruistic kidney donor.
“I’m really lucky to have a wife who doesn’t blink at any crazy old thing I want to do,” says Hendrik, who is also dad to daughters Liv, 6, and Frida, 2. “She said, ‘Well, I support you, and I hope your karma rubs off on me!’”
Two questionnaires, a urine screening, and a blood test later, the National Kidney Registry connected Hendrik with the transplant team at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. As a donor, Hendrik learned he would undergo a minimally invasive procedure to remove his kidney. Following his surgery, outside of fatigue and limited physical activity for a couple of weeks, Hendrik could return to running, climbing, and lifting his daughters about a month after his organ donation.
“The remaining kidney is going to grow in function, almost like working out and becoming more effective at what it does,” says Dr. Joseph Del Pizzo, urologist and living donor surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Hendrik’s surgeon. “It should not adversely affect the rest of his life in any way.”
Hendrik only sees how his life will change for the better.
“One reason I’m doing this is to set an example for my daughters,” says Hendrik. “We used a pillow in the shape of a kidney to explain what the organ is and why I was giving mine to someone in need.”
He also wants to inspire more people to become kidney donors. “Most people I talk to don’t even know that this is an impact you can make,” Hendrik says. “You have two kidneys and you only need one. The power of the extra one is that it can allow someone to live a whole new life.”