Helping my dad fight kidney disease

Over the past three years, my dad has been teetering on the edge between “kidney issues” and end-stage renal disease. Unfortunately, more recently, the scales have shifted in the wrong direction, and last year, we got the news: he needs a kidney transplant. And despite several friends and relatives being tested, we’ve yet to find a suitable direct donor.

My dad doesn’t like to talk about it — ironic, considering how much he likes to talk!—so we’re sharing his story everywhere that we can, hoping to connect with absolutely anyone that’s ever considered (or would consider) donating. As strange as it sounds, according to his transplant coordinators many donations come exactly from things like this: making people aware that there’s someone they can help, and seeing who comes forward. While living kidney donation is certainly not a trivial procedure, it’s a fairly straightforward one, and the donor can live without any changes to their lifestyle or health. Moreover, it quite literally saves someone else’s life (or multiple).

As part of this campaign, I helped my dad blast this message to his friends, family, past clients, co-workers, and basically anyone he had crossed paths with over the last several years. It’s difficult for him to be candid about his health, so I wanted to repost it here for anyone to read — and so he has a link to send to people vs. continually asking me to forward it to him :)

A much belated happy 2017, and hope you’ve been doing well!

Depending on who is reading this, you may remember me as your trusted mortgage advisor, real estate colleague, friend or simply someone who answered your questions at a home show. It may have been awhile since we last spoke, but here’s me and my family today:

Today, I’m reaching out with an admittedly unusual message: I have end-stage renal disease (13% function), and I’m in need of a kidney transplant. Unfortunately, the average wait time for a deceased donor (3+ years) will put me on dialysis for a prolonged period of time. Dialysis — which involves hooking myself up to a machine to manually filter my blood for 3–4 hours, 3–4 times per week — will keep me alive, but it will make it very difficult to work full-time and continue helping people like yourself. Worse, once I finally do get called, it makes the lifespan of a transplanted kidney much shorter.

Only one thing can keep me off dialysis: a “live kidney donation.” And you can help.

Live kidney donations are actually quite common nowadays, as you can lead a perfectly healthy and unaltered life with one kidney, and the surgery can now be done laparoscopically with a quick recovery. Moreover, the evolution of Paired Kidney Exchanges means that you don’t even need to be the same blood type to help — and can save as many as 70 people at one time! In the words of one friend, a registered organ donor who was tested but ultimately not a candidate: “why wait till I’m gone before I can help someone?”

Unfortunately, there are simply nowhere near enough “good Samaritan donors” to make a dent in the list, and 4,500 people die every year while waiting. The bottom-line: I still need a willing donor, and my son, wife, friends and family that have undergone testing have so far not been a match. That’s why I’m turning to you.

If you have ever considered donating a kidney altruistically, or would ever even dream of doing so, please reply to this email. My insurance will cover all expenses, and you can literally save the life of someone in your community (possibly multiple) — even if we don’t share the same blood type.

If you’re not interested in getting tested, you can still help me a great deal. Spread my story by sharing with your organizations and communities, forward this email to anyone you think may be interested, or simply click here to share the donation campaign my family has set up for me. Someone you’ve never even thought of might be the willing donor I need.

And if you simply want to learn more about being a donor and the impact it can have, I suggest reading these links:

1. About being a kidney donor

2. About the Paired Kidney Exchange programs

3. About Tampa General’s first-rate transplant program

As you can imagine, this was a difficult message for me to write, and it makes me quite uncomfortable to share this with all of you. However, as was drilled into me by my doctors at Tampa General and my friends and family over the last several months: when it’s your life on the line, you do what you have to do. Whether or not you decide to help, I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to listen to my story.


Ken Schiff

We’ve had a handful of people step forward, but for one reason or another, so far they haven’t panned out. The search continues, and you can help.

Click here to view my dad’s Facebook page and learn more

Product @Square. Prior: built Canvas @occipital, co-founder @Fetchnotes, VP @Benzinga, and chief opinionator @michigandaily.