By: Yuritza Arroyo
This Thanksgiving, Helen Hunter is taking time to reflect on the gift of life and the miracle of organ and tissue donation and transplantation as she recently celebrated eight years since her life-saving kidney transplant.
“Every day is a gift,” said Helen. “I am forever grateful to my kidney donor and his loving family. I honor his memory by living each day to its fullest, enjoying life’s precious moments, and spending time with my family and friends.”
Officials say, Helen has also prioritized advocating for NJ Sharing Network, the nonprofit organization responsible for recovering and placing donated organs and tissue in the Garden State.
She has walked with her donor’s family during NJ Sharing Network’s 5K Celebration of Life events.
“Just one organ and tissue donor can save eight lives and enhance the lives of over 75 others,” said Helen. “The most selfless gift you can give someone is the opportunity to lead a healthy life.”
With the support of her husband, Kevin, Helen faced many critical health issues over the years as she struggled with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), an inherited disorder that causes kidneys to enlarge and lose function over time.
Helen’s father, Donald, died in his 40’s, and her paternal grandmother also passed away due to PKD.
In Helen’s case, her kidneys shut down, and she needed dialysis to survive.
“Unfortunately, my kidneys grew so large that they had to be completely removed,” said Helen. “I literally had no kidneys and was completely dependent on dialysis to survive.”
In September 2014, Helen’s prayers were answered when she received ‘the call’ for a transplant at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston.
With her health and strength fully restored, Helen is staying active by exercising daily and helping to care for her 93-year-old mother, Cathy.
Currently, there are over 100,000 Americans – nearly 4,000 of whom live in New Jersey – waiting for a life-saving transplant, according to United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).
New Jersey ranks #4 in the nation in the percentage of state population on the National Donate Life Registry.