Villanova, PA resident, Michael Meshkov, is celebrating nearly 25 years with his life-saving kidney transplant. This holiday, Michael, his wife, Jeannine and their two adult children, Bryan and Kristi, will celebrate both Hanukah and Christmas, and will spend quality time together as a family. Michael wouldn’t be able to spend this meaningful holiday season with his family if it wasn’t for the generosity of his donor’s family, whose decision to say “yes” to organ donation changed Michael’s life forever.
Michael always knew that kidney disease would most likely be a part of his life. Polycystic kidney disease (PKD), an inherited disorder that often causes kidney failure, plagued his family. His mother suffered from the disease and had two kidney transplants, and his brother, Arnold, received a kidney after Michael. His grandmother died from PKD.
Michael was fortunate to have a healthy childhood, and never showed signs of the disease until his mid-30s. “Because of my family history, I was aware of what that meant for me. I had my blood pressure taken and it was going up. I went to a nephrologist and he monitored me, but it continued to increase, my kidney function declined and I was added to the organ transplant waiting list. I knew this would eventually happen to me, but I thought it would be something that I faced in my 50s, not my 30s.” said Michael.
He was officially added to the waitlist on April 17th, a very important date for him. He got engaged to his wife on April 17th and his son was born on that date as well. Most individuals who are added to the organ transplant waitlist for a kidney wait years before receiving a second chance at life. Currently, an average of 21 people die each day in the U.S. while waiting for a transplant. Michael was one of the lucky ones, and received his kidney transplant just months after being added to the list.
He said, “I was a week away from having to go on dialysis when I got the call about my kidney transplant. I was always tired, and even if I tried to be active, after about ten minutes I had to sit down. Even something as simple as taking a shower was exhausting for me. I would have to sit down to towel off.” Michael and his wife are both dentists and have their own practice. “I still took patients during that time, but it was challenging. I would fall asleep at lunch and was irritable. I felt like ‘why me?’ I kept my disease private from everyone except my family. I didn’t want anyone’s sympathy, so I only told my wife and kids.” he said.
Since receiving a kidney transplant, Michael has taken advantage of his increased energy. He loves to play basketball and volleyball, and has taken several biking trips through Europe with his wife. “For three summers in a row, we biked through Austria, France and the Netherlands.” Michael said. “Receiving a kidney has really been a second chance at life for me. I could resume my life and live like everyone else. I see a doctor every three months, but that’s really it. It has been like a rebirth for me. I know that without my transplant, I’d be on dialysis right now or not here at all.” he said.
Michael is also a captain for Team Philadelphia’s basketball team. Team Philadelphia is a group of recipients and living donors who compete in the Donate Life Transplant Games of America every other summer. This Olympic-style competition brings together thousands of participants to show that transplantation works. Michael has won a number of medals in volleyball and basketball as part of Team Philadelphia. He said, “For me, going to the Games has been very healing. Every medal that I’ve won was presented to me by a donor family, which is amazing. I feel like the donor families get to heal too because they see that it really is a gift of life and that the recipients are doing great.”
In addition to family time this holiday, the Meshkov’s will continue a yearly tradition that they love – going to New York City to enjoy a Broadway show and dinner. For years, they have taken their staff to show their appreciation for their hard work, and to have fun and celebrate this special time of year.
Michael’s appreciation for receiving the gift of life is unmistakable. “To me, the real heroes are the donors and donor families. They are amazing people to make that kind of decision when they have so much grief. It’s great to have met so many of these families, and to be able to thank them personally. They’re incredible people, and without them many of us wouldn’t be here.” he said.
This December, Gift of Life remembers and honors those individuals and families who have made the decision to give the greatest gift of all – the gift of life. Due to the giving spirit of the region, Gift of Life is able to provide hope to the more than 5,600 men, women and children in the region who continue to wait. You can help by registering today at www.donors1.org. It only takes 30 seconds to register.
Gift of Life Donor Program has worked tirelessly for the past 42 years to coordinate donors’ generosity with those in need. Since 1974, Gift of Life – the organ procurement organization for the eastern half of PA, southern NJ and DE – has helped save nearly 42,000 lives through organ donation, and enhanced over half a million lives through tissue donation. For more information or to register, visit donors1.org.