How about some good news as we celebrate this holiday season? Aron Eisenberg, a Trek fan favorite thanks to his portrayal of Nog on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and his always-positive presence at Trek conventions, will undergo a kidney transplant -- the second of his life -- on December 29. For those who believe in miracles, Eisenberg spent just four months on the waiting list before finding a match. Recently, Eisenberg's girlfriend, Malissa Longo, created a GoFundMe page on his behalf. As she wrote on the page, "We are in need of some help while he is in the hospital and following the procedure, as I am his primary care giver and neither of us will be able to work during that time... We also would like to help his amazing donor with time lost at work and any other expenses she may need while she recovers from donating such an incredible gift." Longo added, "Any money donated that exceeds our needs will be donated to a charity that benefits organ donors and transplant recipients." And just the other day, StarTrek.com caught up with Eisenberg, who filled us in on what wrong with his kidney, how he connected with a donor and what he hopes his future will hold post-transplant. Check out below to read what he had to say, and to go to www.GoFundMe.com/aronskidney to learn more about his situation and to contribute.
What went wrong that you need a new kidney?
I was born with only one defective kidney which failed when I was about 13-14. I went on dialysis at age 14 and I had my first transplant when I was 17, from a cadaver. Fast forward almost 30 years, and my kidney said "I’m done!" I knew it was rejecting a few years ago, but is very slow, like an old car. Immediately after the Vegas con, I got sick, with flu-like symptoms. I thought I was sick like many other people from the con, so I just kept moving forward, dealing with the symptoms, trying to get better. On August 25th I found out I was in kidney failure and needed to go in to the hospital immediately to begin dialysis. basically, as my life. I went in the hospital on August 26. Fast forward to December 29th, and I’m having new kidney transplant. I have been on dialysis since August 26th, 2015.
How long have you been waiting and how confident were you that a donor, one who'd be compatible, would come along?
I went on the transplant list back in April, as I knew my kidney was dying. I just didn’t know when it was going to happen. My levels were low enough to get on the list. Confidence in receiving a kidney is a tricky thing. I think it is more about patience, that eventually one will be available for me, whether it was from a living donor or cadaver. Obviously, I had no idea that it would happen four months after beginning dialysis. That has been mind-boggling to me. I’m so blessed and fortunate. It’s absolutely incredible.
Who were some of the people who offered to give you one of their kidneys, and tell us a bit about the person whose kidney you'll be receiving?
Her name is Beth Bernstein. She has been a friend of my family for many, many years. We were neighbors when I was about 17 or 18 in an apartment complex in Newbury Park. What are the odds? She has remained very close to my mother all of these years and we have kept in touch as well. When she saw my FB post, she just instinctively reacted and wanted to help me. She got tested and tested and, miraculously, was a match for me! And here we are! She is just so incredibly selfless to give to me like this, that words cannot express my gratitude to her. There were two other people who were also a match to me and willing to give; Chelsea Rind and Emily Dubois. Chelsea is a friend of mine that I have known for a few years now. She’s a remarkable young lady who is looking in to possibly giving to another person. So we shall see if she changes someone else’s life. Emily, while I do not know her very well, is a friend from FB who so generously wanted to help me.
How big a gift is the gift of a kidney, not just for you and your family, but for everyone who gets one?
It very difficult to express how big a gift of a kidney really is. It’s huge! It really another chance at living a normal life, of having the opportunities to live the life you want, to chase after your dreams, to be in the game. We don’t really know how much we have until we do not have it any longer. While you can live a fulfilling life on dialysis, and it saves countless lives, living with a transplant is so much more. As a friend of mine who is on dialsys said, dialysis is like driving a Ford Pinto and having a transplant is like driving a Ferrari. Having a transplant is like being back in the game of life. I’m not sure if all the things I have done for the last 39.5 years with my transplant I would have been able to do on dialysis. I’m not even sure if I would still be here without that transplant, but I am, and I had a wonderful team take care of my while on dialysis and they are helping me get to my next transplant. It’s like round two of my life and I hope that I make the absolute best of it!
Tell us about the GoFundMe campaign -- what will the money be used for?
The GoFundMe page was set up to help my family during the time of the surgery and the following month to cover our living and medical expenses. Neither I nor Malissa, who is my caregiver for the transplant, will be available to work as UCLA requires a caregiver for the transplant recipient. While a normal wait for a kidney is 5-8 years or longer, my wait has only been 4 months. I really didn’t expect it and we really didn’t have time to prepare. It has been quite a whirlwind these last few months. So, we need help. And it’s been one of the most difficult things to do, to ask for help. And the outpouring of love, support and generosity has been absolutely tremendous. I’m so amazed at how beautiful this community is, how awesome they have all been to me, not only now, but throughout the years. I will never forget this…ever. This transplant is giving me back my life and everyone that has helped me -- whether it be with encouragement, by sharing our journey and page, to donating -- has been instrumental in making this possible. I can’t and will never be able to say "Thank you" enough times. And I’m sure you will hear me say "Thank you" over and over again, from con to con, when I have the opportunity to thank those that have so graciously offered their support.
Lastly, how excited/nervous/ready are you for the transplant?
I’m beyond excited.. and nervous. And there is only one way to go, which is forward. It’s very scary, for sure, but the prospect of moving forward again with a new transplant is one that I will not let go by me. Thank you so much!
Again, visit www.GoFundMe.com/aronskidney to learn more about Eisenberg's situation and to contribute.