‘Everyone should be on the donor list,’ says Orange kidney recipient

Kidney recipient Nathan Smith of Orange is photographed on his backyard deck. Arnold Gold — New Haven Register

Kidney recipient Nathan Smith of Orange is photographed on his backyard deck. Arnold Gold — New Haven Register

ORANGE >> Nathan Smith, 74, got the call at 2 p.m. June 16 to be at Yale-New Haven Hospital by 3 p.m. because a perfect match was found for his kidney transplant.

By 11:30 that night, he was out of surgery and his new kidney was functioning.

Smith is so in awe of getting a second chance in life and so thankful to the hospital staff, that he’s looking for other kidney transplant recipients to contact him, so they can get together and brainstorm ways to get more people to donate organs.

“I think everyone should be on the donor list,” he said. “I want to do something to make more people aware,” of what being a donor can mean.

Smith is asking anyone interested in the cause who is a kidney recipient to email him at elephantstru@hotmail.com.

He and his wife, Phyllis Smith, owners for 20 years of the former Elephant’s Trunk, a personalized gift business, have been in the journey together.

Phyllis Smith said there are a lot of misconceptions about becoming a donor, including that many don’t realize “you can live with one kidney.”

Phyllis Smith said that her husband isn’t dependent on the dialysis machine, they can do more traveling — Europe was out with the machine — and he finally gets to sleep on his back.

She said the dialysis also took away their spontaneity.

Nathan Smith, who works in sales at Batteries Plus, said doctors watched his kidney closely for several years, as there were signs of a problem, and finally, six years ago, he went on home dialysis. Doctors told the Smiths that Nathan’s kidneys were troubled because of untreated high blood pressure.

Every night for six years he was hooked up to a dialysis machine that ran with solution and he had to keep a strict diet free of potassium — no orange juice, no tomatoes, no bananas, broccoli and many more foods he couldn’t eat.

The first thing he did after waking up from his surgery was to drink three glasses of orange juice.

He is doing well and is happy not be tethered to the machine, although Phyllis Smith said rejection can happen within the first three months and then the next three. He hasn’t passed the three-month mark yet.

All Nathan Smith knows about his donor is that he was a 63-year-old who had high blood pressure, and diabetes and died from a stroke. But the man’s kidney function was “great,” Nathan Smith said.

Nathan Smith said he will be eternally grateful and now wants to turn his attention to helping others.

He wrote a letter the Register thanking several of the staff at Yale-New Haven Hospital by name, including his transplant team of Dr. Peter Yoo, Dr. William Asch, APRN Joynell Mirasol “and others always stopped in to check on me. Day and night they were there.”

Smith wrapped up his letter with, “Yale, you should be very proud.” And he concluded, “Now I’m onto the next chapter in my life with my donor Kidney. There are still lots of people out there waiting for a kidney. Did you ever think of becoming a donor?”