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'I told you I'd get emotional': Colorado kidney donor meets recipient for first time

When a social media post asked for help, a gracious Coloradan answered the call.
Ed Silberman and Dave Heal
Posted at 5:00 PM, Jun 28, 2024

AURORA, Colo. — A man in New Jersey needed a kidney transplant. A man in Colorado answered the call. But for more than three years after the transplant surgery, they never met — until this week, when Ed Silberman flew to Denver and shared an emotional face-to-face conversation with Dave Heal about their experience as an organ donor and recipient.

“It's very strange to think of one of your organs living inside of another person,” Heal said. "It's kind of a miracle to actually meet the person who you've been able to get back to living the life that they were meant to live.”

Dave Heal shares hug with Ed Silberman
Dave Heal, who lives in Colorado, embraced Ed Silberman, the New Jersey man he donated a kidney to.

It all started back in 2019 with a social media post. Silberman, an avid softball player with otherwise good health, learned his kidney functions were deteriorating and he would need to use peritoneal dialysis until he could get a transplant. His son-in-law, Jeremy Garson, tweeted at a sports blog seeking a donor.

Silberman said you usually “only hear negative things” from social media.

But Heal, who happened to follow the blog and had studied at the same university as Silberman’s son-in-law, saw the post.

The tweet that brought Silberman and Heal together.
This 2019 social media post brought Silberman and Heal together.

“I was like, ‘This feels like the universe sending me a signal,’” said Heal, who was already considering donating a kidney.

While donors giving an organ to a stranger don’t typically talk with the recipient, Heal stayed in touch with some of Silberman’s family members throughout the process.

After nearly a year of tests and research, Heal decided to move forward with the donation. But the COVID-19 pandemic got in the way. Their surgeries, originally scheduled for March 2020, were delayed until December.

Brian Martindale donated his kidney to Jessica Schwerin, after finding out she needed a kidney through a newspaper story.

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“Dave sent me a picture of him in recovery after it. This was in the afternoon. My surgery was hours later, and they flew with the kidney to Philadelphia,” Silberman said.

"The kidney started working immediately,” he said.

Within a few months, he was back to playing competitive softball.

“I was right back at it,” he said. “My life is back to where it was.”

Silberman and his family remain grateful to Heal, who they call their “SuperHealo.”

SuperHealo.jpg
After the transplant surgery, Silberman's family sent Heal a framed thank you message, with Heal's head edited onto Superman's body.

"There are 100,000 people in the United States on the kidney transplant list, and every day, seven people die waiting for a kidney,” Silberman said.

Heal helped Silberman beat those odds. But he’s humble about the sacrifice.

"My parents are hematologists,” Heal said. "I’m used to thinking about giving little bits of your body so other people can have a transfusion or live a better life.”

Donating a kidney, “it just didn't seem that much of a stretch, to be honest,” he said.

Ed Silberman and Dave Heal
Ed Silberman and Dave Heal exchanged jokes, hugs and teary-eyed moments when they finally met in person.

Heal encourages others considering donating a kidney to read up about what it would entail through resources from the National Kidney Foundation and the support and protections offered to living donors by Donor Shield.

“I think people should at least do the exercise that I did, which was think about what your life looks like and whether this is a sacrifice that you could make,” he said. “If you're healthy and have a good support system, the outcomes for people who donate kidneys are actually really great.”

For Heal and Silberman, the chance to meet after everything they had been through was surreal and led to lots of friendly banter.

"How are you enjoying the product?" Heal asked.

"You mean, the kidney?" Silberman responded.

"Yeah, is it working as good for you as it is for me?"

"It's working. I think I got a little smarter. Actually."

"How about your batting average?"

"Batting Average? No, no, no, no. It hasn't helped the batting average. But it's helped me enjoy life again the way I was," Silberman said.

julie-spear-kidney-donation-thumbnail.jpg

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Both Silberman and Heal are grateful to have connected in the way they did, and hope their experience can inspire others to seek help or give it, even if it’s a stranger you connect with online.

“For someone in my situation, use whatever means you have to get the word out for a living donor,” Silberman said. “It's amazing what's happened. Amazing.”

'I told you I'd get emotional': Colo. kidney donor, recipient meet for 1st time


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