Easthampton resident Bonnie Diamond recently received a life-saving kidney transplant.
Reminder Publishing submitted photo

EASTHAMPTON — As much of the world was celebrating the holidays and exchanging presents, Bonnie Diamond was in the hospital late last year anticipating the greatest gift of all — a new life.

The Easthampton woman was in her room at North Shore University Hospital on Long Island, waiting for a kidney that a woman in another room at the hospital was donating to her.

The women didn’t know each other; their identities were kept anonymous. But through an intermediary, they exchanged greeting cards before they went into surgery.

Diamond’s card had orchids on the cover. They’re one of her favorite flowers.

“She wrote that she hoped the surgery would allow me to live my best and fullest life,” Diamond told Reminder Publishing. “She wanted me to have a life full of love and happiness. She wrote that she had been praying for me and my family since she found out she was a potential donor.”

In her card, Diamond expressed deep gratitude. “I wrote thanking her for the amazing gift, the gift of life, that she was giving me.”

Both women went into surgery on Dec. 4, 2023, one donating and the other receiving the critically important organ.

Chronic need

Diamond had chronic kidney disease, which had been slowly progressing for 30 years. She couldn’t tell there was a problem right away, and the disease quietly got worse. She finally knew something was wrong 20 years ago when she began feeling symptoms. She became tired, thirsty and had a strange feeling in her legs — the disease was finally diagnosed.

By last summer, Diamond had been evaluated by three kidney transplant centers. They all concluded the 63-year-old was healthy enough to have lifesaving kidney transplant surgery.

Diamond worked tirelessly to find a kidney donor. She reached out directly to friends and family and spread the word on Facebook.

She also turned to Renewal, an organization in New York that helps patients and their families “navigate the complex process of kidney transplant, from finding a donor to arranging the transplant and beyond,” according to a statement on the group’s website.

Renewal found a living donor for Diamond in their database. According to her, Renewal called the woman and said they had found a recipient in Massachusetts who needed her kidney.

“This sort of gives me goosebumps. The day after the woman got the call, her son was getting married. During the ceremony she thought to herself, ‘I am so happy right now, I want to donate a kidney so the recipient will be able to have a joy in her life.’”

By this point, Diamond had only 7% use of her kidneys but she was able to travel and hike with her husband. She was also able to continue running her business, Staying in Balance Acupuncture. A licensed acupuncturist, Diamond treats patients with a range of conditions using a traditional eastern medicine approach — practices and techniques she used to keep herself healthy and active while she waited for a kidney donor to emerge.

“I exercise every day and eat well. I do a lot of things that keep me in a really good place health-wise. That’s part of the reason I still had kidney function at that point,” she said.

“Worrying wasn’t going to change anything. My strategy was to get up every morning, pray and meditate. I was leaning in to all the things I know from being an acupuncturist and treating my patients,” she said.

Diamond had been waiting over a year for a donor and was preparing herself physically and mentally to go on dialysis, which while lifesaving, imposes strict limitations on living. She was also on a list to receive a kidney from a deceased donor, but outcomes are much better when kidneys come from living donors.

“It was miraculous because the timing was very good,” said Diamond. “It was unbelievable. Everything shifted at that moment.”

As Diamond approached the day of her surgery, she wasn’t quite ready to proclaim mission accomplished.

“The donor could get sick, I could get sick, a lot of things could happen. It wasn’t until I was in the hospital Dec. 4 that I knew 100%, I’d get the kidney,” Diamond recalled.

It has been more than two months since the surgery. There have been no complications and both women are recovering well. Diamond has been skiing with her husband Dan, and through Renewal, has sent her angel a selfie in the snow.

When the time is right, the women will be given the chance to meet. Diamond is looking forward to that, and instead of sending an anonymous message in a card, she’ll deliver her thanks with an in-person embrace.

While her words to the donor will be deeply personal, she is casting a broader message about the importance of being a kidney donor.

“Being a donor does not put you at greater risk. It is a surgery, but people can live with one kidney. Once the surgery is done, you’re not on any medication and your body functions normally,” she said. “It’s about giving someone the gift of life.”

Staasi Heropoulos
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