There are all sorts of ways for people to give. For some it’s money, for others it’s food, blood or hours spent volunteering. David Fairbanks’ way is to give up a kidney . . . to a complete stranger.
There are all sorts of ways for people to give. For some it’s money, for others it’s food, blood or hours spent volunteering.
David Fairbanks’ way is to give up a kidney . . . to a complete stranger.
Fairbanks, a 52-year-old postal worker from Hingham, gave his kidney in December. Last week, he met the man whose life he saved.
“Most of the time a person’s life is pretty predictable and really it doesn’t amount to much and you want to do something that’s larger than life,” Fairbanks explained of his gift. “There’re some risks, but you figure the opportunity to save a human life, I mean what could be better in terms of feeling good about yourself and making a difference in the world?”
Ben Crescenzo, a 65-year-old carpenter from Wallkill, N.Y., received Fairbanks’ kidney during the first three-way kidney transplant operation in New Jersey history.
At a gathering arranged at St. Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey last week, Crescenzo couldn’t stop thanking Fairbanks. His daughter rushed to embrace the stranger who gave her children a chance to know their grandfather.
A few years ago, Fairbanks read an article in “The New Yorker” titled “The Gift.” It told the story of multi-millionaire Zell Kravinsky who decided to give away his fortune and – to the chagrin of his wife – one of his kidneys to a stranger.
Fairbanks was inspired.
“I couldn’t put it out of my mind, I thought about it and thought about it,” he said. “Finally, I said to myself, ‘Why not?’ and I did it.”
Unlike Kravinsky, Fairbanks had the full support of his wife, Deborah.
“He said to me, ‘Debbie, I wanna donate a kidney,’ and I was like, wow, OK, that’s interesting,” she said with a laugh. “I said, ‘I wouldn’t do that, but if you want to do it, it’s a wonderful thing,’ and I do look upon it as a wonderful, selfless act.”
Last year, Fairbanks took the school vacation week off from work to be with his children, Adam, 18, Mary, 16 and Eve, 14. That week, he set his gift in motion with a trip to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Fairbanks was put on a living donor list in July, and in November he got the call.
Surgery was scheduled for Dec. 13 and Fairbanks was ready to go. But a snowstorm put a stop to everything.
A week later, everything went off without a hitch and three people started new, healthier lives that day.
Crescenzo, Fairbanks’ recipient, experienced some complications, but appeared healthy and strong at their meeting last week.
“When we met him, he looked great and what a euphoric feeling that was,” Deborah said. “The fact that one of Dave’s kidneys was in this guy, keeping him healthy and how much he really appreciated it, what a wonderful feeling.”
It took Fairbanks about 2 1/2 months to recover before returning to his job unloading postal trucks in Brockton.
Under his union contract, employees who donate organs continue to get paid and keep their jobs while they are recovering.
Fairbanks said he’d like to write about his experience for union publications in the hopes that others might follow his example.
“Once in a while you have to step outside your life and you have to make a difference in a bigger way,” he said. “Everybody’s got that power and all you have to do is decide what you want.”
Karen Goulart may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.