Ft. Myers – (February 3, 2021) – Since 1998, National Donor Day coincides with Valentine’s Day to bring hope to the 107,000 individuals on the national transplant waiting list, to celebrate renewed life given by generous organ and tissue donors and their families, highlight transplant recipients who have received an organ or tissue transplant and serve as a call to action encouraging others to also sign up to save lives as organ and tissue donors.
David and Janet Weinstein, a couple from Cape Coral, share a special connection which gives them an extra reason to celebrate life, and love, this February 14th. When David Weinstein, a dentist retired to Cape Coral from New Jersey, joined a singles group and met Janet, he met his perfect match.“I asked if I could sit with her and we started talking, and the next thing we knew everyone in the group had left. We ended up talking until the wee hours of the morning. It was just the beginning,” said David. Not too long after meeting the couple married. Soon, Janet and David found she had something more in common than just romance.
David received a kidney transplant several years before meeting Janet. Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), a hereditary condition which causes multiple cysts to develop and ultimately damage the kidneys, caused David’s kidneys to fail. PKD had already taken all of David’s male relatives including his father, grandfather, great grandfather and cousins, and when, at age 51, David started to experience symptoms associated with kidney damage - high blood pressure and extreme fatigue, he knew his kidneys were beginning to fail. David immediately started dialysis, a medical procedure that cleaned toxins and extra fluids from his body to perform the job his kidneys could not. Nearly two years later, on November 26, 1997, David received a lifesaving kidney transplant from a deceased donor. “After I received the kidney, I felt great. My life was given back to me and I was so thankful to my donor,” said David.
At age 54, Janet, like David, had retired to Cape Coral. On the day she and David married, Janet didn’t know she was in early stages of kidney failure…and soon after she was also diagnosed with PKD. “I had no clue I had a kidney problem. I had moved from Washington State because I could no longer function at my job. My first symptom was trouble thinking clearly,” Janet recalls. “I had never really been sick. I thought maybe I was getting older, and less energetic. I think I was in denial until I spoke with my nephrologist.” She was grateful to have David, a kidney recipient and veteran of PKD, as a caregiver and in her corner. “I was very positive because here was a person who had done dialysis, received a transplant and was functioning normally. If he could do it, I could do it too,” said Janet.
Janet waited for two years before she received a kidney from an organ donor, in October, 2011. “My whole life changed. I didn’t realize how sick I was. After my transplant I felt invincible again as I had felt before getting sick. I wanted to show myself and others that I could function normally and do anything,” said Janet. After recovering from surgery, Janet trained to run half marathons, perform aerobatics on the trapeze and compete in mud obstacle courses. “I found out people were inspired by these activities which made me want to share on social media while being an advocate for organ donation,” said Janet.
She and David traveled the world, and participated in the National Transplant Games of America in 2016 and 2018, where they won multiple medals in bocce, track and field and darts. This past year, at age 70, Janet qualified for the 2020 Spartan Trifecta World Championship race in Greece however unfortunately, due to COVID-19 the championship race was canceled. Despite that, Janet was proud of qualifying for the event.
Although David and Janet have not met the families of their donors, they sent letters of gratitude to their respective transplant centers who forwarded them onto the organ recovery organizations with relationships to their donor families. “We wanted them to know how thankful we are for a second chance at life,” said Janet. Thanks to their organ donors, David and Janet’s transplants so far have given them 32 additional years of life and love.
In honor of National Donor Day, David and Janet encourage people to share life and love by registering to become organ and tissue donors at www.DonateLifeFlorida.org. They are both volunteers with LifeLink of Florida, which facilitates the recovery of organs and tissue on Florida’s west coast. “Prior to COVID-19, what I liked most about volunteering with LifeLink was attending the senior health fairs and teaching people that there was no age limit to donation. Anyone can sign up to be a donor regardless of their health condition. It is fun to educate the public,” said David. The couple looks forward to a time when in-person volunteer opportunities, social gatherings and travel plans can resume. Until then, they continue to volunteer together by sharing their story virtually.
LifeLink of Florida is the federally designated, non-profit community service organization dedicated to the recovery of organs and tissues for transplantation in west and southwest Florida. LifeLink can be of assistance with scheduling virtual interviews or webinar presentations to media outlets, local schools, civic groups and businesses on the importance of donation; for more information on LifeLink, or to register as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.LifeLinkFoundation.org.